Humanity has planted flags on the moon, yet a moonshot for brain cancer has yet to be realized.
In “Ravenous,” Sam Apple tells the story of a researcher who was able to carry out his groundbreaking work on cancer cells even in the middle of World War II.
A young woman with a prosthetic leg hopes to make the world a more empathetic place. If only she didn’t have to do it on first dates.
In a joint address to Congress last night, President Biden updated the nation on vaccination efforts and outlined his administration’s ambitious goals.
Biden’s first 100 days have been characterized by sweeping legislative packages that could lift millions of Americans out of poverty and slow the clock on the climate crisis, but during his first joint address to Congress, the president highlighted another smaller plan that’s no less ambitious: to “end cancer as we know it.”
“I can think of no more worthy investment,” Biden said Wednesday night. “I know of nothing that is more bipartisan…. It’s within our power to do it.”
The comments weren’t out of the blue. Earlier this month, the White House released a budget request for $6.5 billion to launch a new government agency for breakthrough health research. The proposed health agency would be called ARPA-H and would live within the NIH. The initial focus would be on cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s but the agency would also pursue other “transformational innovation” that could remake health research.
The $6.5 billion investment is a piece of the full $51 billion NIH budget. But some critics believe that ARPA-H should sit under the Department of Health and Human Services rather than being nested under NIH.
ARPA-H would be modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which develops moonshot-like tech for defense applications. DARPA’s goals often sound more like science fiction than science, but the agency contributed to or created a number of now ubiquitous technologies, including a predecessor to GPS and most famously ARPANET, the computer network that grew into the modern internet.
Unlike more conservative, incremental research teams, DARPA aggressively pursues major scientific advances in a way that shares more in common with Silicon Valley than it does with other governmental agencies. Biden believes that using the DARPA model on cutting edge health research would keep the U.S. from lagging behind in biotech.
“China and other countries are closing in fast,” Biden said during the address. “We have to develop and dominate the products and technologies of the future: advanced batteries, biotechnology, computer chips, and clean energy.”
If you or a loved one has ever undergone a tumor removal as part of cancer treatment, you’re likely familiar with the period of uncertainty and fear that follows. Will the cancer return, and if so, will the doctors catch it at an early enough stage? C2i Genomics has developed software that’s 100x more sensitive in detecting residual disease, and investors are pouncing on the potential. Today, C2i announced a $100 million Series B led by Casdin Capital.
“The biggest question in cancer treatment is, ‘Is it working?’ Some patients are getting treatment they don’t benefit from and they are suffering the side effects while other patients are not getting the treatment they need,” said Asaf Zviran, co-founder and CEO of C2i Genomics in an interview.
Historically, the main approach to cancer detection post-surgery has been through the use of MRI or X-ray, but neither of those methods gets super accurate until the cancer progresses to a certain point. As a result, a patient’s cancer may return, but it may be a while before doctors are able to catch it.
Using C2i’s technology, doctors can order a liquid biopsy, which is essentially a blood draw that looks for DNA. From there they can sequence the entire genome and upload it to the C2i platform. The software then looks at the sequence and identifies faint patterns that indicate the presence of cancer, and can inform if it’s growing or shrinking.
“C2i is basically providing the software that allows the detection and monitoring of cancer to a global scale. Every lab with a sequencing machine can process samples, upload to the C2i platform and provide detection and monitoring to the patient,” Zviran told TechCrunch.
C2i Genomics’ solution is based on research performed at the New York Genome Center (NYGC) and Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM) by Dr. Zviran, along with Dr. Dan Landau, faculty member at the NYGC and assistant professor of medicine at WCM, who serves as scientific co-founder and member of C2i’s scientific advisory board. The research and findings have been published in the medical journal, Nature Medicine.
While the product is not FDA-approved yet, it’s already being used in clinical research and drug development research at NYU Langone Health, the National Cancer Center of Singapore, Aarhus University Hospital and Lausanne University Hospital.
When and if approved, New York-based C2i has the potential to drastically change cancer treatment, including in the areas of organ preservation. For example, some people have functional organs, such as the bladder or rectum, removed to prevent cancer from returning, leaving them disabled. But what if the unnecessary surgeries could be avoided? That’s one goal that Zviran and his team have their minds set on achieving.
For Zviran, this story is personal.
“I started my career very far from cancer and biology, and at the age of 28 I was diagnosed with cancer and I went for surgery and radiation. My father and then both of my in-laws were also diagnosed, and they didn’t survive,” he said.
Zviran, who today has a PhD in molecular biology, was previously an engineer with the Israeli Defense Force and some private companies. “As an engineer, looking into this experience, it was very alarming to me about the uncertainty on both the patients’ and physicians’ side,” he said.
This round of funding will be used to accelerate clinical development and commercialization of the company’s C2-Intelligence Platform. Other investors that participated in the round include NFX, Duquesne Family Office, Section 32 (Singapore), iGlobe Partners and Driehaus Capital.
Music therapy is increasingly used to help patients cope with stress and promote healing.
A panel recommends biennial screenings, starting at 50, but a new study took issue with the way hundreds of centers are telling women 40 and up to come in yearly. Some experts contend that frequent mammograms can “do more harm than good.”
A drug that unleashes the immune system offers a rare glimmer of hope for those with a cancer that resists most treatments.
He was a top executive at Memorial Sloan Kettering before resigning over payments from health care companies. He went on to lead cancer research at AstraZeneca.
The advice from research on coffee, and nutrition more generally, always seems to be changing. Processing vast amounts of data could help us pin it down.
Growing evidence suggests that people with cancer and other conditions that challenge their immune systems may be incubators of mutant viruses.
Classifying a rare blood disorder as a cancer opened new doors for disease investigation, treatment and hope for a cure.
Primary care startup Forward Health is looking to expand its tech-powered, personalized healthcare model across the U.S., and will use a new $225 million Series D raise to help make it happen. The new capital comes from Founders Fund, Khosla Ventures, SoftBank, Mark Benioff – and recording artist The Weeknd – among others. I spoke to Forward Health co-founder and CEO Adrian Aoun about his company’s plans for this fresh capital, and we also chatted briefly about how The Weeknd got involved.
Forward, which currently operates clinics in select U.S. markets including LA, New York, Chicago, SF and Washington, D.C., has a number of distinguishing features, but most notable are likely its tech-first approach that includes a full biometric assessment upon first visit, and its business model, which eschews insurance providers altogether and instead works based on a single flat membership fee.
Aoun and his co-founders created Forward Health with the idea of building a healthcare business that’s aligned with its customers in terms of incentives, which is why they sidestepped insurance altogether. That’s led to a focus on customer service and long-term patient relationships and outcomes, which Aoun says are stronger because they’re not bound by an individual’s relationship with their employer, for instance, which is often the case when an employer foots the bill for healthcare via company-provided insurance.
“The average person in the Bay Area is with their employer for about two and a quarter years,” Aoun told me. “So your employer is kind of sitting there thinking, if you get the flu, you’re missing three days of work – I’m out some money.” That means they’ll do things like institute programs to remind employees constantly to get their annual flu vaccine, and do other things to make that happen like provide on-premise shots. But Aoun says they’re optimizing for short-term outcomes, not long-term health – because that’s where their incentives tell them to optimize.
But when long-term healthcare programs, like lifestyle shifts that can lessen the potential of truly dangerous outcomes like heart disease and cancer, come into play, an employer who expects you to stick around for a few years at most is far less incentivized to want to fund that. Forward Health, which aims to attract subscribers and, for lack of a better term, minimize churn, actually is incentivized to make those long-term outcomes positive for everyone who comes through the door.
That’s part of why one focus with this new funding is to debut new doctor-led programs tailored to treating conditions that individual patients might be predisposed to – like heart health, if heart disease runs in your family, or specific types of cancer, if there’s a history of that, for instance.
“We’ve got our [in-clinic] body scanners, our blood tests, our gene sequencing – we basically collect on the order of about 500 biometric data points,” Aoun said. “The idea is you and your doctor then figure out which which kind of programs make sense for you based upon those.”
For example, Aoun says he’s actually at fairly high risk for developing heart disease, so there’s a Forward program that includes doing a heart risk analysis, blood tests, and regular at-home monitoring of key risk factors like blood pressure and weight. Another program for cancer prevention includes measures designed to help lessen the risk of contracting the top five cancers in terms of prevalence — so Forward created a dermatoscope for that, which is essentially a skin scanner to map out an individual’s moles and skin features and alert them of any changes.
This builds on work that Forward began at the outset of COVID-19 — its ‘Forward at Home’ program, which includes sending patients home with specialized sensors for remote care. Another specialized program tailored to COVID-19 actually offers monitoring specific to the disease in order to track a patient’s progress safely.
“We’re now launching programs for all the top diseases to help you get ahead of them,” Aoun said. “And whatever kind of programs you’re using, you walk away with plans that are tailored to you, again, to counsel you not only on the potential risks for the things like the cancer and heart disease, but also to be proactive, with guidance from diet, to exercise, to stress, and to sleep, etc.”
The programs are supported by Forward’s 24/7 worldwide care support team, which subscribers can access via their mobile app. It’s also complemented by the check-ins with your physician via the ‘Forward at Home’ in-home virtual visits.
While Forward is already rolling these out, it has plans to continue to develop new ones, and it’s also monitoring results in order to understand how they’re working for users, and will be sharing that data once it has collected a significant sample. I asked Aoun how Forward can scale this kind of personalized care – especially now that the startup plans to open additional locations in other parts of the country.
Basically, Aoun said that Forward approached it as an engineering problem. He argues that most solutions in healthcare see the fundamental issue as a labor problem — but trying to scale that, with the salaries that medical professionals command, and the limited availability of skilled talent, makes no sense. Especially because consumers are naturally looking for improvements in their standard of care over time, in the same way they expect improvements in the products they buy or services they use.
Rather than relying on a chain of increasingly specific medical professionals to address individual health risks and needs, Aoun said Forward identified that there’s a massive amount of overlap in preventative care courses of action. The Forward team focused on breaking the fundamental elements down into what equate roughly to reusable Lego blocks, which can be recombined with relative speed and repeatability to produce a program that’s nonetheless tailored to an individual’s needs.
Combined with Forward Health’s longitudinal approach to care, these programs and their recombinant nature should prove a good dataset from which to assess how a direct, client-focused primary care model affects overall health.
And, because I promised, I’ll leave you with how Aoun says The Weeknd got involved in the Series D.
“He literally just walked by one of our locations, and walked in and was like, ‘This is awesome,’ and then asked a friend, who asked a friend, who asked a friend to get connected,” he told me.
Israel-based Ibex Medical Analytics, which has an AI-driven imaging technology to detect cancer cells in biopsies more efficiently, has raised a $38 million Series B financing round led by Octopus Ventures and 83North. Also participating in the round was aMoon, Planven Entrepreneur Ventures and Dell Technologies Capital, the corporate venture arm of Dell Technologies. The company has now raised a total of $52 million since its launch in 2016. Ibex plans to use the investment to further sell into diagnostic labs in North America and Europe.
Originally incubated out of the Kamet Ventures incubator, Ibex’s “Galen” platform mimics the work of a pathologist, allowing them to diagnose cancer more accurately and faster and derive new insights from a biopsy specimen.
Because rates of cancer are on the rise and the medical procedures have become more complex, pathologists have a higher workload. Plus, says Ibex, there is a global shortage of pathologists, which can mean delays to the whole diagnostic process. The company claims pathologists can be 40% more productive using its solution.
Speaking to TechCrunch, Joseph Mossel, Ibex CEO and Co-founder said: “You can think of it as a pathologist’s assistant, so it kind of prepares the case in advance, marks the regions of interest, and allows the pathologist to achieve the efficiency gains.”
He said the company has secured the largest pathology network in France, and LD path, which is five pathology labs that service 24 NHS trusts in the UK, among others.
Michael Niddam, of Kamet Ventures said Ibex was an “excellent example of how Kamet works with founders very early on.” Ibex founders Joseph Mossel and Dr. Chaim Linhart had previously joined Kamet as Entrepreneurs in Residence before developing their idea.
Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest potential threats to global health today. But Locus Biosciences is hoping that their crPhage technology might provide a new solution.
Based in North Carolina’s Research Triangle, the startup recently announced promising phase 1b clinical trial results for their use of CRISPR-Cas3-enhanced bacteriophages as a treatment for urinary tract infections caused by escherichia coli. Led in part by former Patheon executive and current Locus CEO Paul Garofolo, the startup launched in 2015 with the goal of using a less popular application of CRISPR technology to address growing antimicrobial resistance.
CRISPR-Cas3 technology has notably different mechanisms from its more well-known CRISPR-Cas9 counterpart. Where the Cas9 enzyme has the ability to cleanly cut through a piece of DNA like a pair of scissors, Garofolo describes Cas3 more like a Pac-Man, shredding the DNA as it moves along a strand.
“You wouldn’t be able to use it for most of the editing platforms people were after,” he said, noting that meant there wouldn’t be as much competition around Cas3. “So I knew it would be protected for some time, and that we could keep it quiet.”
Garofolo and his team wanted to use CRISPR-Cas3 not to edit harmful bacteria found in the body, but to destroy it. To do this, they took the DNA-shredding mechanism of Cas3 and used it to enhance bacteriophages—viruses that can attack and kill different species of bacteria. Together, co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Dave Ousterout—who has a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Duke—thinks this technology offers an extremely direct and targeted way of killing bacteria.
“We armed the phages with this Cas3 system that attacks E. coli, and that sort of dual mechanism of action is what comes together, essentially, as a really potent way to remove just E. coli,” he said in an interview.
That specificity is something that antibiotics lack. Rather than targeting only harmful bacteria in the body, antibiotics typically wipe out all bacteria they come across. “Every time we take antibiotics, we’re not thinking about all the other parts of us that are impacted by the bacteria that do good things,” said Garofolo. But the precision of Locus Biosciences’ crPhage technology means that only the targeted bacteria would be wiped out, leaving those necessary to the body’s normal function intact.
Beyond offering this more specific approach to treatment of pathogens, or any bacteria-based disease, Garofolo and his team also suspect that their approach will also be extremely safe. Though deadly to bacteria, bacteriophages are typically harmless to humans. The safety of CRISPR in humans is well-established, too.
“That’s our secret sauce,” said Garofolo. “We can build drugs that are more powerful than the antibiotics they’re trying to replace, and they use phage, which is probably one of the world’s safest ways to deliver something into the human body.”
While this new technology could certainly help treat pathogens and infectious diseases, Garofolo hopes that indications in immunology, oncology, and neurology might benefit from it too. “We’re starting to figure out that some bacteria might promote cancer, or inflammation in your gut,” he said. If researchers can identify the bacteria at the root cause of those conditions, Garofolo and Ousterout think the crPhage technology might prove to be an effective treatment.
“If we’re right about that, it’s not just about infections or antimicrobial resistance, but helping people overcome cancer or delay the onset of dementia,” Garofolo said. “It’s changing the way we think about how bacteria really help us live.”
Early Stage is the premier ‘how-to’ event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear first-hand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company-building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, product market fit, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in – there’s ample time included for audience questions and discussion.
As pandemic disruptions lead many of us to drink more, experts underscore the link between alcohol and disease.
St. Jude Hospital and Jared Isaacman, a billionaire entrepreneur, selected Hayley Arceneaux for a trip to orbit in a SpaceX capsule.
Two leading contenders generate wider debate about the leadership needed to restore morale and scientific integrity to an agency battered by the politicized Trump administration.
He helped devise a successful chemotherapy regimen for childhood leukemia, which had long been a death sentence.
Those with compromised immune systems are often advised to get the shots under medical supervision, but their cancer centers can’t always provide them.
This week, in a first, firefighters are demanding independent testing for cancer-linked chemicals known as PFAS in their gear and that their union drop sponsorships from chemical and equipment makers.
Even as he was dying, he worked to raise awareness of pediatric cancer. Now scientists are using his cells to help others.
After Hollywood optioned his devastating essay about his dying wife, Matthew Teague vowed the movie would do right by her. The reviews landed like a gut punch.
Certain sex practices, at certain ages, increased the risk of throat cancers related to human papillomavirus.
At the start of the pandemic, I was “Dr. No” to my in-laws and cancer patients, but my conversations have become more nuanced.
Senti Biosciences, a company developing cancer therapies using a new programmable biology platform, said it has raised $105 million in a new round of financing led by the venture arm of life sciences giant, Bayer.
The company’s technology uses new computational biological techniques to manufacture cell and gene therapies that can more precisely target specific cells in the body.
Senti Bio’s chief executive, Tim Lu, compares his company’s new tech to the difference between basic programming and object oriented programming. “Instead of creating a program that just says ‘Hello world’, you can introduce ‘if’ statements and object oriented programming,” said Lu.
By building genetic material that can target multiple receptors, Senti Bio’s therapies can be more precise in the way they identify genetic material in the body and deliver the kinds of therapies directly to the pathogens. “”Instead of the cell expressing a single receptor… now we have two receptors,” he said.
The company is initially applying its gene circuit technology platform to develop therapies that use what are called chimeric antigen receptor natural killer (CAR-NK) cells that can target cancer cells in the body and eliminate them. Many existing cell and gene therapies use chimeric antigen receptor T-cells, which are white blood cells in the body that are critical to immune response and destroy cellular pathogens in the body.
However, T-cell-based therapies can be toxic to patients, stimulating immune responses that can be almost as dangerous as the pathogens themselves. Using CAR-NK cells produces similar results with fewer side effects.
That’s independent of the gene circuit,” said Lu. “The gene circuit gets you specificity… Right now when you use a CAR-T cell or a CAR-NK cell… you find a target and hope that it doesn’t affect normal cells. We can build logic in our gene circuits in the cell that means a CAR-NK cell can identify two targets rather than one.”
That increased targeting means lower risks of healthy cells being destroyed alongside mutations or pathogens that are in the body.
For Lu and his co-founders — fellow MIT professor Jim Collins, Boston University professor, Wilson Wong, and longtime synthetic biology operator, Phillip Lee — Senti Bio is the culmination of decades of work in the field.
“I compare it to the early days of semiconductor work,” Lu said of the journey to develop this gene circuit technology. “There were bits and pieces of technology being developed in research labs, but to realize the scale at which you need, this has to be done at the industrial level.”
So licensing work from MIT, Boston University and Stanford, Lu and his co-founders set out to take this work out of the labs to start a company.
“When the company was started it was a bag of tools and the know-how on how to use them,” Lu said. But it wasn’t a fully developed platform.
That’s what the company now has and with the new capital from Leaps by Bayer and its other investors, Senti is ready to start commercializing.
The first products will be therapies for acute myeloid leukemia, hepatocellular carcinoma, and other, undisclosed, solid tumor targets, the company said in a statement.
“Leaps by Bayer’s mission is to invest in breakthrough technologies that may transform the lives of millions of patients for the better,” said Juergen Eckhardt, MD, Head of Leaps by Bayer. “We believe that synthetic biology will become an important pillar in next-generation cell and gene therapy, and that Senti Bio’s leadership in designing and optimizing biological circuits fits precisely with our ambition to prevent and cure cancer and to regenerate lost tissue function.”
Lu and his co-founders also see their work as a platform for developing other cell therapies for other diseases and applications — and intend to partner with other pharmaceutical companies to bring those products to market.
“Over the past two years, our team has designed, built and tested thousands of sophisticated gene circuits to drive a robust product pipeline, focused initially on allogeneic CAR-NK cell therapies for difficult-to-treat liquid and solid tumor indications,” Lu said in a statement. “I look forward to continued platform and pipeline advancements, including starting IND-enabling studies in 2021.”
The new financing round brings Senti’s total capital raised to just under $160 million and Lu said the new money will be used to ramp up manufacturing and accelerate its work partnering with other pharmaceutical companies.
The current timeframe is to get its investigational new drug permits filed by late 2022 and early 2023 and have initial clinical trials begun in 2023.
Developing gene circuits is new and expanding field with a number of players including Cell Design Labs, which was acquired by Gilead in 2017 for up to $567 million. Other companies working on similar therapies include CRISPR Therapeutics, Intellius, and Editas, Lu said.
How my family found an unlikely bridge across the divide created by cancer.
The George Saunders story “Tenth of December” poses a question that absorbs many patients and caregivers: Can we save ourselves or each other from suffering?
The test seems likely to improve the diagnosis and treatment of a disease that kills 33,000 American men each year.
The danger of delayed screenings is greatest for people with known risk factors for cancer.
Yoelvis Valdez and Anabel Santeliz, who met in 2012, faced numerous obstacles before finally marrying in the backyard of friends in Manalapan, N.J.
A raft of lawsuits has emerged from a health care system where the struggle to fight the pandemic has led to neglect of other serious conditions.
Working out may enhance the immune system’s ability to target and eradicate cancer cells, a study in mice suggests.
Does a pharmaceutical company have a moral obligation to acknowledge my participation with an ongoing supply of the product that I helped test?
The draft recommendation acknowledges a trend of higher rates of colon and rectal cancer in generations born since 1950.
The Quebec town is home to one of the world’s largest former asbestos mines. Residents voted to rename the town Val-des-Sources, or Valley of the Springs.
The actor said on Monday that he had started treatment and that his prognosis was “good.”
They appear to be a fourth pair of large salivary glands, tucked into the space where the nasal cavity meets the throat.
Numan launched aiming to promote accessible medical remedies for Erectile Dysfunction but has since expanded into other areas to building a brand around pharmaceuticals on subscription.
It has now closed a £10M Series A funding round led by Novator, along with Anthemis Exponential, Vostok New Ventures, and Colle Capital.
“We are building a new kind of healthcare company that gives men simple and accessible solutions for their health and wellbeing problems… The COVID crisis is motivating men to take better care of themselves,” said Sokratis Papafloratos, Numan’s Founder and CEO in a statement.
As part of the funding, Birgir Már Ragnarsson of Novator joins Numan’s board. “We were impressed with Numan’s capital-efficient execution so far and are excited about the future direction of the company. Health is one of the largest economic transformation opportunities still addressable at a global scale, and we’re delighted to be part of Numan’s journey.”
Numan intends to use the funds to continue investing in technology, expand operations, and grow the team, with Sam Shah, ex CEO of NHSX recently joining as Chief Medical Strategy Officer.
Most research shows that most men don’t go to the doctor when something is wrong, and yet they are more likely than women to get cancer, heart disease and become overweight, and are more prone to smoking, drinking, and abusing drugs. Hence why startups like Numan are starting to show traction, as men can take more preventative measures.
Jack Hoopes spends a lot of time with dying dogs. A veterinary radiation specialist at Dartmouth College, Hoopes has spent his decades-long career treating canine cancers with the latest experimental therapies as a pathway for developing human treatments. Recently, many of Hoopes’ furry patients have come to him with a relatively common oral cancer that will almost certainly kill them within a few months if left untreated. Even if the cancer goes into remission after radiation treatment, there’s a very high chance it will soon re-emerge.
For Hoopes, it’s a grim prognosis that’s all too familiar. But these pups are in luck. They’re patients in an experimental study exploring the efficacy of a new cancer treatment derived from a common plant virus. After receiving the viral therapy, several of the dogs had their tumors disappear entirely and lived into old age without recurring cancer. Given that around 85 percent of dogs with oral cancer will develop a new tumor within a year of radiation therapy, the results were striking. The treatment, Hoopes felt, had the potential to be a breakthrough that could save lives, both human and canine.
“If a treatment works in dog cancer, it has a very good chance of working, at some level, in human patients,” says Hoopes.
This isn’t the first time uncertainty has colored my days. Three decades ago, I learned that I had metastatic cancer and that nothing could be taken for granted.
Looking after two small kids while going through chemotherapy is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Because much cancer research and clinical trials have been based on white populations, efforts to explore the ways race and ethnicity influence disease are underway.
Peer Medical has a big mission. After his father died of lung cancer, serial entrepreneur Ed Spiegel vowed to create a better way for lung cancer patients to deal with their disease. The startup has so far raised a $1.2M seed funding round for its ground-breaking approach and is onboarding patients at a rate of knots.
Peer Medical allows lung cancer patients to anonymously share their treatments with each other. This helps survivors find others like them and see which treatments and procedures work best. Users can search by biomarker, stage, age, or gender and review verified treatments and journeys of similar patients.
The funding round was led by Amsterdam-based ‘Partners in Equity’ (PiE), best known for investing seed capital into Adyen the Dutch payments unicorn; and London’s Seedcamp, alongside Angel investors. Peer Medical is now able to sign up patients’ electronic health records inside a minute. Its advisers include Dr. David Jablons, Head of Thoracic Oncology at UCSF, and Dr. Geoffrey Ginsburg, Head of Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine at Duke University .
Spiegel’s RentMineOnline was one of the first-ever ‘share economy’ startups to appear 10 years ago, and also Seedcamp’s first investment, and its first exit.
Indeed, the idea for Peer Medical came to Spiegel 10 years ago as the sole care-giver during his father’s three-year battle with lung cancer.
Spiegal told me he came up with the idea after meeting a buddy of his from his college who had also seen his father pass away from lung cancer. Comparing notes, Spiegal realized he could have had so much more information if they’ve been able to share treatment information.
“It’s like: ‘God I wish I would have known that back then!’. It’s just such a terrible experience. Unfortunately for me, I lived the experience, but I could have really used a sort of ‘electronic caregiver’ essentially to help my Dad through it.”
Participating in online forums, Spiegel found patients willing to help but realized the need for a centralized, searchable database that contained the knowledge these people possessed. There were over 1.7 million new cancer cases diagnosed in the US last year alone. The information for the patients is often disorganized, incomplete, or out of date. Medical record portability is growing in adoption and will be crucial in aiding treatments.
“It’s a little like you as a driver using Waze to crowdsource information from other drivers to get to the perfect route because you’re learning from all the other people,” commented Spiegal. “The future is certainly electronic health records, although it’s still kind of like using a credit card in 1999 online, it’s coming in a big way. You will have your records, and wonder ‘who else is just like me?’”
There are already big players making it happen such as Apple Health, and online hospital portal growth driven by companies like Epic and Cerner.
Peer Medical doesn’t really have ‘competitors’ in the traditional sense, other than Facebook support groups for patients, which are not anonymous and chaotic, and Google searches. PatientsLikeMe, founded in the early 2000s, doesn’t leverage the medical records aspect and sold in 2019 to United Health Care for 2017 after raising $100M.
Commenting, Reshma Sohoni, co-founder of Seedcamp said: “Ed was a part of Seedcamp’s first cohort of companies and returned our first successful exit. We’re thrilled to back Ed and his team for a second time and bring what we hope will be another successful venture to our portfolio. Unfortunately, I’ve also lost a parent to cancer and can relate to how important a tool like this can be to navigate such difficult times. We really like that the patient retains anonymity but is still able to learn from others.”
Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp Managing Partner added: “At Seedcamp, this is exactly the type of community that we like to invest in. People, in this case, patients and caregivers, bound together by a common goal to fight cancer. We’re thrilled to help Ed and the Peer Medical team build this community that pools verified and anonymized medical records and uses them to optimize individual treatment paths.”
RentMineOnline, which did referrals for apartments on Facebook, was successfully sold to a publicly-traded property management software firm, Real Page (NASDAQ: RP).
In “Mill Town,” Kerri Arsenault uncovers her family’s long history in northern Maine and an epidemic of cancer that may be intimately connected to the community’s main employer.
The cancer that killed Chadwick Boseman is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, and rates are rising among younger people.
Like Beau Biden, we have glioblastoma. It doesn’t get the attention it should.
Some might be better off not knowing they have breast cancer because they are likely to die of other causes long before breast cancer would threaten their health.
California-based startup Mission Bio has raised a new $70 million Series C funding round, led by Novo Growth and including participating from Soleus Capital and existing investors Mayfield, Cota and Agilent. Mission Bio will use the funding to scale its Tapestri Platform, which uses the company’s work in single-cell multi-omics technology to help optimize clinical trials for targeted, precision cancer therapies.
Mission Bio’s single-cell multi-omics platform is unique in the therapeutic industry. What it allows is the ability to zero in on a single cell, observing both genotype (fully genetic) and phenotype (observable traits influenced by genetics and other factors) impact resulting from use of various therapies during clinical trials. Mission’s Tapestri can detect both DNA and protein changes within the same single cell, which is key in determining effectiveness of targeted therapies because it can help rule out the effect of other factors not under control when analyzing in bulk (ie. across groups of cells).
Founded in 2012 as a spin-out of research work conducted at UCSF, Mission Bio has raised a total of $120 million to date. The company’s tech has been used by a number of large pharmaceutical and therapeutic companies, including Agios, LabCorp and Onconova Therapeutics, as well as at cancer research centers including UCSF, Stanford and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
In addition to helping with the optimization of clinical trials for treatments of blood cancers and tutors, Mission’s tech can be used to validate genome editing – a large potential market that could see a lot of growth over the next few years with the rise of CRISPR-based therapeutic applications.
Sight Diagnostics, the Israel-based health-tech company behind the FDA-cleared OLO blood analyzer, today announced that it has raised a $71 million Series D round with participation from Koch Disruptive Technologies, Longliv Ventures (which led its Series C round)and crowd-funding platform OurCrowd. With this, the company has now raised a total of $124 million, though the company declined to share its current valuation.
With a founding team that used to work at Mobileye, among other companies, Sight made an early bet on using machine vision to analyze blood samples and provide a full blood count comparable to existing lab tests within minutes. The company received FDA clearance late last year, something that surely helped clear the way for this additional round of funding.
“Historically, blood tests were done by humans observing blood under a microscope. That was the case for maybe 200 years,” Sight CEO and co-founder Yossi Pollak told me. “About 60 years ago, a new technology called FCM — or flow cytometry — started to be used on large volume of blood from venous samples to do it automatically. In a sense, we are going back to the first approach, we just replaced the human eye behind the microscope with machine vision.”
Pollak noted that the tests generate about 60 gigabytes of information (a lot of that is the images, of course) and that he believes that the complete blood count is only a first step. One of the diseases it is looking to diagnose is COVID-19. To do so, the company has placed devices in hospitals around the world to see if it can gather the data to detect anomalies that may indicate the severity of some of the aspects of the disease.
“We just kind of scratched the surface of the ability of AI to help with with a wish with blood diagnostics,” said Pollak. “Specifically now, there’s so much value around COVID in decentralizing diagnostics and blood tests. Think keeping people — COVID-negative or -positive — outside of hospitals to reduce the busyness of hospitals and reduce the risk for contamination for cancer patients and a lot of other populations that require constant complete blood counts. I think there’s a lot of potential and a lot of a value that we can bring specifically now to different markets and we are definitely looking into additional applications beyond [complate blood count] and also perfecting our product.”
So far, Sight Diagnostics has applied for 20 patents and eight have been issued so far. And while machine learning is obviously at the core of what the company does — with the models running on the OLO machine and not in the cloud — Pollak also stressed that the team has made breakthroughs around the sample preparation to allow it to automatically prepare the sample for analysis.
Pollok stressed that the company focused on the U.S. market with this funding round, which makes sense, given that it was still looking for its FDA clearance. He also noted that this marks Koch Disrupt Technologies’ third investment in Israel, with the other two also being healthcare startups.
“KDT’s investment in Sight is a testament to the company’s disruptive technology that we believe will fundamentally change the way blood diagnostic work is done,’ said Chase Koch, President of Koch Disruptive Technologies . “We’re proud to partner with the Sight team, which has done incredible work innovating this technology to transform modern healthcare and provide greater efficiency and safety for patients, healthcare workers, and hospitals worldwide.”
The company now has about 100 employees, mostly in R&D, with offices in London and New York.