Engine and Giiant Scoop Up Fresh Funding for Cancer and IBD
After a $10 million seed round in 2018, Engine Biosciences announced its first VC round – a $43 million Series A. Founded by MIT researcher Tim Lu and his brother Jeffrey, the AI-driven company is based in Singapore and Silicon Valley.
With two targets selected for its internal pipeline, Engine is ready to drive its lead program into clinical trials by 2023. The company believes its targeted therapies for genetically-defined patient populations show promise for major areas of unmet need in liver, ovarian, colorectal, and breast cancers.
“We believe Engine's AI-enabled technology platform has the potential to discover new biology targets and disease-causing links amongst known targets,” said Leon Chen, CEO and Founding Partner of Series A investor 6 Dimensions Capital. “Considering the field’s tremendous needs for the right drug targets for the right patients and Engine’s unique capabilities in finding those, we continue to be excited by Engine’s potential to power new medicines.”
Tying AI and machine learning to drug development have become a rage in the biotech world as companies look to cut R&D costs and speed up the discovery process through advancing tech.
Using NetMAPPR, a searchable biology platform, and CombiGEM, a combinatorial CRISPR approach for experimental confirmation, Engine’s tech breaks down the validation and data generation bottlenecks.
According to Jeffrey Lu, “We have built comprehensive computational/AI and experimental biology platforms that drive more efficient and effective discovery of new therapies or improvements to existing products. Through our integrated approach, we uncover the critical biology underlying complex disease networks. This will ultimately allow us to predict, program and modulate biological systems to solve a broad range of major unmet needs.”
Engine’s $43 million raise marks the largest Series A funding for a biotech in Singapore.
On the other side of the continent, Montreal-based Giiant Pharma closed $11 million in seed financing to take its small molecule prodrug to IND-enabling trials.
With up to three million Americans suffering from some form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Giiant’s lead candidate, GT-2108 is a colon-specific PDE4 inhibitor prodrug with potent anti-inflammatory effects. The format is activated by gut microbiota, limiting treatment-associated side effects to improve quality of life.
“With a unique ability to deliver an active PDE4 inhibitor to the site of inflammation in the gut, we expect limited systemic exposure and a safer profile” says Dr. Elizabeth Kwong, cofounder and Chief Development Officer of Giiant Pharma Inc.
CEO Maxime Ranger explained, “Precision Delivery is an exciting concept which has the potential to transform the field of gastroenterology."
Giiant’s preclinical program will target moderate-to-severe ulcerative colitis to expand the pipeline to other gastrointestinal diseases.