Seed round led by First Round Capital; Eigen to build a high-throughput discovery engine to develop priming therapies that make cancer treatments more effective
REDWOOD CITY, Calif., December 08, 2022--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Eigen Therapeutics, the biotech startup on a mission to make cancer easier to find and eliminate, announced today their launch. They also announced a $7 million seed round led by Josh Kopelman at First Round Capital, with participation from Builders VC, Kevin Mahaffey, Hawktail, Matthew De Silva (founder at Notable Labs), Varsha Rao, Bioverge, Alumni Ventures, Mount Pleasant Ventures, and others.
Eigen was founded by an engineer and a scientist, Transon Nguyen and Kamran Ali, who have assembled a diverse team of experts in technology and biological sciences. Both founders are veterans of Notable Labs, where they gained deep experience in the cancer drug discovery industry, and where they began to grapple with the gaps in targeted therapy success rates.
"Targeted therapies, including antibody-drug conjugates and CAR T-cell therapies, are incredibly effective in some instances and have significantly moved cancer treatment forward," explains Eigen CEO Transon Nguyen. "But they could be far more effective than they are today. There’s a lot of focus on developing better, smarter targeted therapies, but we noticed there hasn’t been much attention on the other side of the equation. So we asked: What if we also made cancer cells easier for targeted therapies to eliminate?"
Eigen focuses on priming therapies that make cancer cells more visible—so they can be identified faster. The company takes a two-step approach to treating cancer. The first step is a priming therapy, which essentially shines a spotlight on the cancer cells to make them more recognizable. They do this by increasing target expression across cancer cells.
"Once the cancer has been primed and highlighted, the targeted therapeutic can more easily find and attack the tumor cells and eliminate the cancer," says Eigen CTO Kamran Ali. "When priming therapies are paired with targeted therapies, cancer treatment can become far more effective."
Eigen will use the capital from their seed round to apply their novel high-throughput platform toward the development of priming therapies. Their initial programs are focused on hematological malignancies; in the future, their platform will allow them to quickly spin up programs for other cancer indications, such as solid tumors.
For Nguyen and Ali, the platform-based approach is a logical choice, as Notable was one of the first companies to prove out the thesis that a full-stack approach integrating robotics, software, and biology is a viable strategy for scaling up cancer drug discovery. Transon was Notable’s founding engineer, Head of Laboratory Automation, and VP of Engineering; Kamran was Notable’s Head of Platform and Discovery.
"Priming therapies have the potential to improve targeted therapies, and ultimately, the lives of cancer patients," says Josh Kopelman, founding partner at First Round Capital. "However, it's a widely unsearched field. Eigen's team and the platform they’ve built are the perfect match to systematically search this field and develop more priming therapies."
Eigen’s high-throughput platform takes a combinatorial functional screening approach to exploring the space of priming therapies. It uses proprietary machine learning algorithms to discover novel associations, new classes of drugs, and new potential therapies that change a cell's state to make it more vulnerable to a targeted therapy. The Eigen platform represents the intersection of biology and engineering, and includes robotic systems, laboratory operations software, and machine learning analysis pipelines—all developed in-house—with the ultimate goal of saving more lives.
Eigen is a seed stage biotech on a mission to make therapies that make cancer easier to find and eliminate. Founded by two key contributors to Notable Labs’ pioneering predictive medicine platform, Eigen is focused on the development of "priming" therapies, therapies that help targeted therapies reach their full potential by addressing cancer heterogeneity, making cancer cells more vulnerable and/or making healthy cells more resilient to treatment. Eigen was founded in September 2021 and their investors include First Round Capital, Builders VC, Kevin Mahaffey, Hawktail, Matthew De Silva (founder, Notable Labs), Varsha Rao, Bioverge, Alumni Ventures, and Mount Pleasant Ventures.
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