A Genentech-partnered Vijay Pande favorite nabs $52M to advance an AI pipeline
Evan Feinberg could have picked a better time to launch his AI biotech, Genesis. He announced a $4.1 million round last November; by March, South San Francisco, California was under lockdown.
Still, a year later, he can look back at his early tenure with a certain degree of satisfaction.
“To see the things we’ve accomplished, all from my couch?” Feinberg told Endpoints News. “It’s really bizarre.”
As with most early-stage biotechs, it’s difficult to verify precisely what they’ve accomplished, but Genesis Therapeutics has managed to check some key boxes: They’ve expanded the team from 5 members to 12. In October, James Sabry and Aviv Regev at Genentech tapped them to help discover new molecules. And with some internal proof-of-concept data to show investors, they announced today a $52 million Series A round to help them land more big-name partners and advance an internal pipeline of small molecule drugs.
The round was led by Rock Springs, with old pals at Andreessen Horowitz and Felicis Ventures, among others, chipping in.
Genesis belongs to a raft of biotechs now trying to use machine learning and neural networks to sift through billions of small molecules and find the best ones to hit a given target. The $52 million raise is a sizeable starting round, although not out of step with the cash that has recently begun to flow into the space; Atomwise, arguably the flashiest name in the field, recently raised a $123 million Series B.
Atomwise and others have also notably attracted criticism for over-hyping what their algorithms can do and how quickly they can speed up drug development.
Feinberg and a16z’s Vijay Pande, who mentored Feinberg when he was a graduate student at Pande’s Stanford lab, have sought to distinguish themselves by pointing to the team that has been assembled. It’s not just software engineers, Feinberg said, but also dyed-in-the-wool medicinal chemists — the traditional human algorithms of drug discovery — such as CSO Peppi Prasit, a Versant advisor and veteran of Merck and Amira Pharmaceuticals, and VP Nick Scott, another Amira veteran.
“They don’t really have patience for the sort of nebulous claims that often proliferate in the computational space,” Feinberg said. “They want to see data, they want to see experiments in the laboratory verifying computational predictions being useful for real drug targets, otherwise it’s just not interesting to them.”
The company is one of just a handful in the AI small molecule space looking to build an internal pipeline. For now, what those candidates are and what they will target remain entirely under wraps.