Led by Viking Global Investors, the Series B round will be used to bring Antheia’s first pharmaceutical compounds to market, expand its pipeline and scale production in global markets
MENLO PARK, Calif., June 30, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Antheia, a synthetic biology company enabling next-generation plant-inspired medicines, announced today that it has raised $73M in Series B financing. The oversubscribed round was led by Viking Global Investors and included participation from Sherpalo Ventures and Hillspire. The funds will support Antheia as it brings its first pharmaceutical compound to market and scales up the production of a number of critical active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and key starting materials (KSMs).
Today, more than 40 percent of medicines are sourced from nature, with many of the drugs on the Essential Medicines list of the WHO and FDA sourced directly from medicinal plants. One of the major challenges with plant-based medicines is their fragile supply chains, which are based on a years-long process of growing, harvesting, transporting, and processing specialty plants. These supply chains are vulnerable to disruptions such as natural disasters and geopolitical conflict, and can only be deployed in certain regions in the world. During times of extreme demand or constrained supply, shortages of many plant-based medicines can occur, as was recently the case during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Antheia’s synthetic biology platform can prevent drug shortages by enabling more resilient and agile production of essential medicines for the US and global markets, solving one of the most challenging problems in the industry and improving the overall healthcare system,” said Dr. Christina Smolke, cofounder and CEO at Antheia. “With this funding, we are equipped to begin decoupling the production of essential plant-based medicines from unpredictable harvests and unsustainable supply chains, while ensuring that these critical, life-saving medicines are available when and where they’re most needed.”
Antheia has created and validated an alternative to conventional drug manufacturing technologies, which typically rely on synthetic chemistry. While modern synthetic chemistry has been utilized to produce a wide range of medicinal molecules, plant-based natural products have long been considered a holy grail due to their complex structures. Antheia is focused on several classes of plant-inspired pharmaceuticals that can’t be produced through a scalable synthetic chemistry process. Antheia has managed to efficiently produce these highly-complex pharmaceuticals by pioneering whole-cell engineering, a technique that reconstructs multi-step biosynthetic pathways of unprecedented complexity in yeast cells. With Antheia’s technology, the cells are engineered to make dozens of enzymes and transporters that work in concert to transform the cell into a miniature factory for efficiently assembling some of the most complex molecules known to humankind.
“Antheia is leading innovation in synthetic biology, and its platform can bring about significant improvements in production time, scale, and cost for our most essential plant-inspired medicines,” said Patrick Yang, Antheia board member, Executive Vice Chairman of National Resilience, Inc., and former EVP at Roche/Genentech. “Antheia’s bio-based fermentation approach resets the foundation of drug manufacturing to be more flexible and responsive, an important velocity and capability improvement and a potential transformation of our current drug supply chains. As countries around the world are retooling their pharmaceutical supply chains, advanced manufacturing technologies such as bio-based fermentation will be a key to success.”
Antheia has already demonstrated success with its synthetic biology platform for complex pharmaceutical compounds. It has produced its first molecule, a KSM for a number of essential medicines, at commercially relevant titers in pilot scale runs (300L), and shown that the resulting material is chemically equivalent to that extracted from plants. The company has also demonstrated the biosynthesis of four major classes of plant-based medicines. In September 2020, Dr. Smolke published a paper in Nature describing the first successful microbial biosynthesis of tropane alkaloids, a class of essential medicines used to treat neuromuscular disorders.
Antheia’s platform can be applied to a wide range of pharmaceuticals that typically rely on plant-derived molecules, including analgesics, antitussives, chemotherapeutics, and neurotransmitter inhibitors. Additionally, Antheia’s synthetic biology platform opens up the potential to develop novel drugs in an underrepresented chemical space, making it possible to address biological targets that are currently considered “undruggable.” Taken as a whole, the company’s platform represents a scalable, cost-effective, rapid-response fermentation-based manufacturing process for essential medicines, which will help ensure greater resiliency and emergency preparedness for healthcare systems of all sizes.
Antheia is unlocking the medicinal power of nature with synthetic biology. Through a novel whole-cell engineering approach to reconstruct complex molecules in yeast, Antheia’s platform enables the discovery and manufacturing of plant-inspired drugs of unprecedented complexity and diversity. Antheia’s team of scientists and technologists is headquartered in Menlo Park, California. For more information, visit www.antheia.bio.
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