Insitro Eyes Technology Expansion with $143M Series B Funding Round
California-based biotech company Insitro announced on Tuesday that it has raised $143 million in a Series B round of funding, led by Andreessen Horowitz. BlackRock, Casdin Capital, HOF Capital, and WuXi AppTec’s Corporate Venture Fund also took part in the financing round.
The funding will be used to continue to build the company’s technology and automation, which enable data generation at a larger scale. This will expand Insitro’s ability to create predictive models of human disease.
“We have spent the last two years advancing several critical components of our business,” said Daphne Koller, Ph.D., founder and chief executive officer of Insitro. “First, we have assembled a world class team of computational scientists and engineers, biologists and translational scientists, drug developers and company builders, all uniquely working in true partnership. Second, we have built a powerful platform for producing disease-relevant biological data at scale. Finally, we have made important scientific progress on the development of ML-driven disease models that can predict human clinical outcomes and on the application of these models to our first two therapeutic areas in liver and CNS disease. With this financing, as well as milestones we have achieved through our strategic partnership with Gilead, we are in a strong position to continue executing on our vision.”
Insitro uses predictive models to accelerate target selection, design and develop effective therapeutics, and inform clinical strategy. Koller founded the company two years ago with a goal of bringing together data science and life science, according to Forbes. She told the news source that there are not enough people who can straddle both worlds, and that bringing these tools together is “absolutely critical.”
To discover new drugs, Insitro uses cells from humans and induces them into pluripotent stem cells, which can turn into virtually any cell within the body. Researchers then develop models of genetic diseases, and then turn to machine learning to determine the key differences between healthy and sick cells.
Although Insitro has not developed any new medications as of yet, it entered a deal with Gilead to work on a product for the treatment of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) back in 2019. The $15 million agreement allows the San Francisco-based company to use data from Gilead’s clinical trials to fine-tune its machine learning platform.
“Gilead is committed to researching and developing treatments for patients living with NASH, particularly those with advanced fibrosis who have the greatest unmet need,” said John McHutchison, chief scientific officer and head of research and development at Gilead, when the deal was announced back in 2019. “We are excited about the opportunity to partner with Insitro to tackle the scientific challenges associated with this complex disease. Through this collaboration we will utilize deep learning to explore the scientific underpinnings of the biology and clinical spectrum of NASH, with the goal of accelerating the development of highly effective treatment options for patients with this disease.”
Under the conditions of the agreement, Insitro is eligible for near-term payments up to $35 million based on operational milestones. It can also potentially receive up to $200 million for the achievement of preclinical, development, regulatory and commercial milestones for each of Gilead’s five targets.
“NASH is a progressive liver disease that can lead to fibrosis, cirrhosis, and liver cancer and will soon be the predominant cause of liver transplantation in the U.S.,” said Koller, when the deal was announced. “We are excited to work with Gilead, a leader in liver disease, in bringing to bear novel tools toward identifying new therapeutics for NASH and helping the many patients in need around the world.”