Harvard Biotech Guru, VCs Launch LifeMine With $55 Million Series A

Harvard Biotech Guru, VCs Launch LifeMine Therapeutics With $55 Million Series A September 18, 2017
(Last Updated: September 19, 2017 @ 8:30am PT)

By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Boston – LifeMine Therapeutics launched with a $55 million Series A round. It was led by WuXi Healthcare Ventures and an investor syndicate made up of Foresite Capital, GV (formerly Google Ventures), Arch Ventures, Boyu Capital, Blue Pool Capital, MRL Ventures Fund, and Alexandria Venture Investments.

LifeMine plans to combine genomics with artificial intelligence and synthetic biology to develop new drugs from eukaryotic microbes. The first focus—fungi.

Gregory Verdine is the co-founder, president and chief executive officer. A venture partner at WuXi, he is also the Erving Professor at Harvard University and Harvard Medical School, and has founded numerous publicly-traded biotech companies including Variagenics, Enanta, Eleven Bio , Tokai , WAVE Life Sciences , Aileron, as well as private company Gloucester Pharmaceuticalswhich was acquired by Celgene in 2010.

Verdine told Endpoints News’ John Carroll, “Fungi have been duking it out with their neighbors in the soil for a billion years, stealing the lunch of their coworkers, competing, and fending off invaders using small molecules as competitive substances.”

Which is a colorful way of saying fungi have come up with unique ways of killing competitors, whether its bacteria, viruses or other microbial predators, and the company is going to isolate some of those methods and see if they can be applied to disease therapeutics, such as cancer. He further told Carroll, his company will “grow up fungi individually, isolate DNA and sequence the DNA. Take the DNA and analyze it for biosynthetic gene clusters; an instruction set to make a natural product.”

Verdine teamed up last year with co-founders WeiQing Zhou, entrepreneur-in-residence at WuXi Healthcare Venture and chief operationg officer at LifeMine, and Hingge Hsu, a senior advisor to WuXi. Together they raised $5 million in seed funding from WuXi Healthcare Ventures, and were then joined by Rick Klausner, the founder and director of Juno Therapeutics , GRAIL and Mindstrong as a co-founder leading up to the Series A round.

The company’s board of directors will include Edward Hu, founding partner, WuXi Healthcare Ventures; James Tananbaum, founder and chief executive officer, Foresite Capital; Krishna Yeshwant, general partner, GV; Yanling Cao, managing director, Boyhu Capital; and Klausner will be chairman. Verdine will also serve on the company’s board.

“LifeMine has figured out how to tap into the power of evolution and accelerate the creation of new drugs that meet the greatest medical challenges of our day and those that have frustrated industry-wide attempts at solution,” Hu said in a statement. “LifeMine is building an exciting company with the potential to dramatically improve human health and well-being by mining fungi to discover drugs that hit difficult targets. We are proud to have worked with the founders to launch the company and the investor syndicate that came together in this financing round will continue to aggressively support LifeMine’s efforts.”

The company claims it has “hacked a code of biologic function hidden in biosynthetic genes that enables the rapid discovery of drugs for previously untargetable disease drivers.”

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