Bit Bio, the new startup that calls itself the "Enter the keyboard of the software of life", only took three weeks to raise its last $ 41.5 million funding round.
Originally known as Elpis Biotechnology The Cambridge, UK-based company was founded in 2016 by Mark Kotter to commercialize technologies that can reduce costs and increase production capacity for human cell lines. These cells can be used in targeted gene therapies and as a method to accelerate drug discovery in pharmaceutical companies.
The company's goal is to reproduce every human cell type.
"We are at a very crucial time in biology and medicine, and the bottleneck that has become really clear is a scalable source of robust human cells," said Kotter. “This is important for drug discovery. When you look at clinical trial failure rates, they're higher than ever. This is in direct contradiction to the massive advances in biotechnology in research and research. "
In the seventeen years since scientists fully mapped the human genome, and eight years since scientists began using gene editing technology known as CRISPR to manipulate genetic material, there has been an explosion of treatments that have come on The genetic material of individual patients and newer drugs that have been developed in more detail are aimed at the mechanisms by which pathogens spread in organisms.
These treatments and the low molecular weight drugs that are being developed to stop the spread of pathogens or reduce the effects of diseases must be thoroughly tested before they are launched on the market. The founder of Bit Bio believes that his company can both shorten time to market and offer new treatments for patients.
This was the thesis of investors like the famous serial biotech entrepreneur Richard Klausner, who served as the former director of the National Cancer Institute and founder of revolutionary biotech companies like Lyell Immunopharma, Juno. and grail, According to Kotter, you're taking the chance to invest in Bit Bio's business.
Klausner includes the famous biotech investment firms Foresite Capital, Blueyard Capital and Arch Venture Partners.
“Bit Bio is based on beautiful science. The company's technology has the potential to leverage the long-awaited engineering precision and reliability for stem cell applications, ”said Klausner in a statement. "Bit Bio's approach represents a paradigm shift in biology that enables a new generation of cell therapies and improves the lives of millions of people."
Kotter's own path to developing the technology that is at the heart of Bit Bio's business began a decade ago in a laboratory at Cambridge University. There he began research based on Shinya Yamanaka's revolutionary discoveries, which enabled scientists to convert human adult cells into embryonic stem cells.
"What we did is what Yamanaka did. We have turned everything upside down. We want to know how each cell is defined… and as soon as we know that we can flip the switch, ”said Kotter. "We find out which transcription factors code for a single cell and switch them on."
Kotter said the technology is like uploading a new program to the embryonic stem cell.
Although the company is still in its infancy, it has managed to gain some important customers and to found a technology-based sister company. Meatable uses the same process to produce laboratory-grown pork.
Meat bar is the earliest applicant for a commercially viable, patented process for making meat cells without killing an animal as a prerequisite for cell differentiation and growth.
Other companies have relied on fetal bovine serum or Chinese hamster ovaries to stimulate cell division and production. However, according to Meatable, a process has been developed in which tissue is removed from an animal, this tissue is converted into a pluripotent stem cell, and this cell sample can then be cultivated into muscle and fat to produce the pork products that taste buds around the world crave for .
"We know which DNA sequence is responsible for moving an early cell to a muscle cell," says Krijn De Nood, CEO of Meatable.
If that sounds similar to Bit Bio, it's because it's the same technology – only for the production of animal cells instead of human cells.
If Meatable is one way to commercialize cell differentiation technology, Bit Bio's partnership with drug development company Charles River Laboratories is different.
“We actually have a revenue-generating business page that uses human cells for research and drug discovery. We have a partnership with Charles River Laboratories, the large pre-clinical contract research organization, ”said Kotter. “In this partnership, we gave Charles River early access to our technology. They have their own usual business customers who want them to help with drug discovery. The big bottleneck right now is access to human cells. "
Drug trials fail because the treatments developed are either toxic or not effective in humans. The difference is that most of the experiments to prove how effective the treatments are are based on animal testing before making the leap to human testing, Kotter said.
According to Kotter, the company is also preparing to develop its own cell therapies. The biggest selling point there is the increased precision that Bit Bio can bring to precision medicine, said Kotter. “If you look at these cell therapies right now, you will get mixed cell bags. There are some that work and some that have dangerous side effects. We think we can be precise (and) security is the greatest right now. "
The company claims that it can produce cell lines with 100% purity in less than a week, compared to mixed bags from other companies' cell cultures.
“Our goal is to develop a platform that can produce any human cell type. This is possible if we understand the genes that control the behavior of human cells and ultimately form the "operating system of life", said Kotter in a statement. “This will release a new generation of cell and tissue therapies to fight cancer, neurodegenerative diseases and autoimmune diseases and accelerate the development of effective drugs for a number of diseases. The support of leading deep-tech and biotech investors will catalyze this unique convergence of biology and technology. "