Ex-Gilead Director Founded and Will Helm Bay Area Cancer Startup Apostle

Ex-Gilead Director Founded and Will Helm Bay Area Cancer Startup Apostle April 4, 2017
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Apostle Inc. launched yesterday in Sunnyvale, Calif. It is a biotechnology company focused on early cancer detection using bioinformatics-enabled nanotechnology.

Apostle says in a statement, “This new approach will enable the early assessment of the cancerous signals in human peripheral blood plasma, which is believed to have a significant impact on the global healthcare landscape in both developed countries and emerging markets.”

The chief executive officer and president of the company will be David Dongliang Ge, formerly president of BioSciKin and Simcere Diagnostics, both located in Nanjing, China. From 2011 and 2016 he was director of Bioinformatics at Gilead Sciences . Ge was also appointed a member of a U.S. NIH NHGRI Special Emphasis Panel, and adjunct assistant professor at Duke University. At Gilead, he led the corporate bioinformatics group and developed strategic approaches to precision medicine infrastructure. Ge received his PhD in Biostatistics and Genetic Epidemiology from Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in 2004. In 2009, he was named by Genome Technology magazine as one of the “rising stars” and by Phacilitate as one of the “Top 50 Most Influential People in Big Data” in 2015.

BioSciKin (BSK) has two sites in Shanghai and Tianjin. Its focus is partnering with global biotech companies and academic institutions to develop therapeutics and healthcare products in China in parallel with its partners’ global development plans.

“Biotechnologies, especially those focusing on novel diagnostic or therapeutic advancements aiming for cancer, are among the key focuses in the global economy for the next five to 20 years,” Ge said in a statement. “By 2020, the market size of cancer diagnosis is estimated to reach $168.6 billion. Apostle represents one of these focuses. With a groundbreaking bioinformatics-enabled nanotechnology approach, we want to inform the general population that we are able to help them identify cancer signals, earlier and more accurate than conventional techniques, and potentially advise their doctors to take highly effective surgical actions.”

The company is funded by Amino Capital, ShangBay Capital, Westlake Ventures, and individual investors in Silicon Valley and China.

Two of the company’s advisors are Charles Cantor, former director of the Department of Energy Human Genome Project, and Hongyu Zhao, the Ira V. Hiscock Professor of Biostatistics and Professor of Statistics and Genetics, Chair of the Biostatistics Department and the Co-Director of Graduate Studies of the Inter-Departmental Program in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics at Yale University.

Bo Zhang will be the vice president of Chemistry. Zhang, a PhD in chemistry from Stanford University, won the Gold Medal of National Chemistry Olympiad of China in 2006. Xin Guo will be vice president of Bioinformatics. Guo was formerly a group leader at Gilead Sciences. Wenqi Zeng will be the company’s chief medical advisor. He is chief medical officer of Simcere Diagnostics. Previously he was senior director of Molecular Genetics at Quest Diagnostics , and director of Clinical Genomics at Ambry Genetics.

Apostle will join a number of competitors, including the two largest clinical diagnostic companies in the world, Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp of America . Cancer diagnostics is also a hot area for development. From small companies to large, entrepreneurs are launching diagnostic companies that utilize nanoparticles and other screening technologies to identify cancer cells in the blood. One example is ConquerX, launched by Deborah Zanforlin, a 25-year-old from Recife, Brazil. Another example is Grail Bio, launched in January 2016 by San Diego-based Illumina . Grail’s plan is to develop a blood test to identify all types of cancers. Others include Guardant Health, Exosome Diagnostics, and Pathway Genomics.

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