San Francisco- and Singapore-based biotech company raises $10 million in seed round from leading American and Asian investors; round was co-led by DHVC (Danhua Capital) and 6 Dimensions Capital, with participation from WuXi Apptec, EDBI, Pavilion Capital, Baidu Ventures, WI Harper, and Nest.Bio Ventures.
San Francisco, January 31, 2018 — Engine Biosciences (“Engine”), the biotech company pioneering its artificial intelligence and genomics network biomedicine platform to unleash faster and more effective drug discovery, today announced a $10 million round of seed funding. The heavily oversubscribed round was co-led by Silicon Valley-based DHVC (Danhua Capital) and 6 Dimensions Capital (formed through merger of Frontline Bioventures and WuXi Healthcare Ventures in May 2017), with participation from global biopharmaceutical leader WuXi AppTec, EDBI (a Singapore-based global fund), Pavilion Capital (a subsidiary of Temasek Holdings), Baidu Ventures, WI Harper, and Nest.Bio Ventures.
The seed funding will support Engine as it builds its drug discovery platform, expands its scientific and executive team in both Singapore and San Francisco, and pursues preclinical studies internally and with partners, which currently include leading research institutions and a prominent US Fortune 500 company.
Engine’s data-driven drug discovery platform combines massively parallel biological experimentation with artificial intelligence (“AI”) to discover and develop better therapies for important human diseases. The platform builds on the pioneering work of Engine’s scientific founders and leaders, including Co-Founder and MIT tenured Associate Professor Timothy Lu, Scientific Founder and Mayo Clinic Assistant Professor Hu Li, Scientific Founder and University of California San Diego Assistant Professor Prashant Mali, and Co-Chair of Scientific Advisory Board and MIT Professor Jim Collins. Collectively, they have published several papers related to Engine’s platform in peer-reviewed journals including Science, Cell, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Methods, PNAS, and others.
Compared with conventional drug discovery approaches, which are too slow and costly to test and map the huge number of genetic interactions that underlie diseases, Engine’s platform drives orders-of-magnitude gains in speed and scale for such studies. By understanding and testing these genetic interactions in parallel and using machine learning and deep learning algorithms to analyze and learn from the resulting datasets, Engine can decipher biological networks that until this point have vexed drug developers and researchers and enable more rational drug discovery.
“The biopharmaceutical industry needs better approaches for R&D to deliver therapies to patients in need faster. Legacy approaches mean that in many cases, we still have a weak understanding of what drives disease and correspondingly, how to treat or prevent it,” said Engine Biosciences Co-Founder and CEO Jeffrey Lu. “Engine’s data-driven platform allows researchers to uncover the critical gene interactions underlying diseases and also test therapies that specifically target these interactions in a faster, cheaper and more precise fashion than currently possible.”
Mr. Lu adds: “We are honored to have a group of internationally renowned investors with deep domain expertise both in biotech and artificial intelligence, validating our approach and supporting our vision.”
To date, Engine’s technology is being applied across four areas: drug repositioning, which applies known drugs to novel indications; new target discovery, which identifies biological factors that underlie disease; precision medicine enablement to support unique treatments based on a patient’s particular genetic makeup; and pathway analysis. Engine has achieved proof of concept across various disease indications and cell types and has active programs in cancer, neurodegeneration, autoimmune, and skin.
“The lack of insight into complex and multi-factorial biological processes within cells contributes to the high failure rate across the drug development cycle. Engine Biosciences has pioneered a new approach to address this by generating novel data and insights that are highly relevant to the biological process,” said Dr. Leon Chen, Founding CEO of 6 Dimensions Capital and member of Engine’s Board of Directors. “We expect the company’s AI platform will lead to insightful information in complex diseases’ pathways that was not previously possible using traditional wet lab centric biology research and we are excited to support the team with our investment.”
Added Stanford Professor Shoucheng Zhang, founding Chairman of DHVC and a member of Engine’s Board of Directors: “The breadth and scalability of Engine’s technology platform and proprietary data generation capabilities present a unique opportunity to build significant data leadership and impact many areas within the huge pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. We are excited to be playing a part in making it possible.”
About Engine Biosciences
Engine Biosciences (www.enginebio.com) is a venture-backed San Francisco- and Asia-based technology company pioneering network biomedicine. Our proprietary and patented technologies oriented around deciphering the complexity of biology networks include both high-throughput wet lab experimentation and artificial intelligence algorithms for drug discovery and cellular reprogramming. This platform, developed through several years of research by our scientific founding and leadership team who include faculty members at MIT, Harvard, Mayo Clinic, and UCSD, dramatically accelerates and reduces costs of the R&D process for new medical therapies. We are actively applying the platform internally and with partners across a range of disease indications.
DHVC (Danhua Capital) is founded by Stanford-tenured Prof. Shoucheng Zhang and his former student Dr. Andrew Gu. They bring together a unique combination of background and expertise in scientific research, entrepreneurship, and investment. With $600M under management crossing three funds and two offices, Danhua bears deep knowledge in cutting-edge technologies and extensive networks in both China and Silicon Valley. Backed by top-notch institutional and strategic partners, DHVC (Danhua Capital) aims to provide startup companies with a wide range of resources to achieve greater success on a global scale. We invest in companies that have an innovative business model or disruptive technology, a strong management team, and a big market opportunity. Our sectors of focus include virtual reality/augmented reality, mobile Internet, big data, cloud computing, wearable computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, and new materials with environmental or information technology applications.
About 6 Dimensions Capital
6 Dimensions Capital is a leading healthcare focused investment firm with an in-depth focus and extensive coverage across China and the United States. It consists of a team of over 30 investment and supporting professionals with offices in Shanghai, Boston, Hong Kong and San Francisco. The firm currently has US$1.6 billion assets under management through 4 US dollar-denominated and 3 RMB-denominated funds, and has built a portfolio of over 60 companies. In May 2017, Frontline BioVentures and WuXi Healthcare Ventures, two prominent and complementary China-U.S. healthcare investment firms, merged to form 6 Dimensions Capital. The Shanghai/San Francisco-based Frontline BioVentures has an established healthcare venture investment exposure in China and the Shanghai/Boston-based WuXi Healthcare Ventures has a proven advantage with its access to innovative startups in the United States. The merger has created a powerhouse that aims to fund innovation in an optimal position to capture the biggest value appreciation on both sides of the Pacific.0