Precision immunology player bags $110M to fund its work on 'disease signature' tests
A Massachusetts startup is walking away from its latest financing haul with over $100 million in fresh cash, thanks to an investor syndicate backing their pursuit of patient response tests.
The $110 million round for Scipher Medicine was led by Cowen Healthcare Investments, and includes existing big-name backers Northpond Ventures and Khosla Ventures — bringing Scipher’s total fundraising to $227 million.
The autoimmune-focused biotech, originally coming out of an academic collaboration in 2015, touts a blood test released in 2020 as its first physical product. Scipher has been focused on taking datasets and identifying a patient’s “disease signature” — which as CEO Alif Saleh told Endpoints News is a measure of gene expression data in whole blood.
That gene expression data “basically tells you with our platform and our technology where the disease biology sits,” Saleh said. “So we see using gene expression data where that biology sits, which then allows us to see if there’s a drug that targets that particular signature, and if so, likely that the response is very high. If not, if the drug doesn’t target the disease signature, then likelihood response is very low.”
There is also a second part to Scipher Medicine: a precision medicine data business. As Saleh put it, testing generates a lot of molecular and clinical data, so they are building a database of the data they are collecting for autoimmune diseases, which they share through partnerships with pharmaceutical companies in the drug discovery process.
The company announced one such collaboration with Galapagos back in 2020 — with Scipher finding drug targets for inflammatory bowel disease using its platform, and Galapagos having the option to take those targets into further development, clinicals and commercialization.
The academic collaboration behind Scipher was helmed by co-founders Joe Loscalzo and Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, who is a physicist at Northeastern University. Loscalzo, chair of the Department of Medicine and physician-in-chief at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, had been working for years on mapping the “human interactome,” the set of protein-on-protein interactions within human cells.
And that mapping project became the basis for Scipher, developing predictive drug response tests.
Scipher’s current product, known as PrismRA, looks at patient response for specifically anti-TNF drugs, and the biotech originally started looking at that particular drug class for rheumatoid arthritis, like drug sales king Humira, Remicade and Enbrel.
And akin to the financing: The large check will fund the launch of more tests from Scipher’s pipeline at one new test a year for the next five years. The next one, scheduled to release sometime this year, is PrismUC for ulcerative colitis. The CEO also said that additional tests for Crohn’s disease and MS were in the works.
An IPO is in the cards for the diagnostics company moving forward, but with the way that the markets are, the company is in no rush to get there.
“We will go when the markets are ready, and we are ready,” Saleh said.