Engine Biosciences Raises S$57 Million in Series A Round to Decipher Genetic Codes
Engine Biosciences has completed an oversubscribed S$57 million Series A funding round, believed to be the largest ever for a Singapore biotech company. Engine identifies errors in the complex genetic codes of diseases, fixing them with precise therapeutic solutions. This round was led by Polaris Partners and also included new investors Invus and one of the world’s premier institutional investors, based in Singapore.
Existing investors also participated in the Series A, which included 6 Dimensions Capital, WuXi AppTec, DHVC, EDBI, Baidu Ventures, Vectr Ventures, Goodman Capital, WI Harper, and Nest.Bio. Amy Schulman, Managing Partner at Polaris Partners, has joined the Engine Biosciences Board of Directors. Engine has now raised over S$70 million to date (including over S$13 million in a 2018 seed round) from leading US, Singapore, and Greater China venture capital and multi-stage investors, many of whom had not invested in a Singapore company prior to Engine.
Located in Singapore and Silicon Valley, Engine has been operating at the intersection of data science, machine learning, high-throughput biology experimentation, combinatorial genetics, chemistry, and drug discovery. Engine’s technologies enable researchers and drug developers to uncover the gene interactions and biological networks underlying diseases orders-of-magnitude faster and more cost-effectively than conventional methods. Additionally, the company generates important insights for precision medicine applications.
“Many breakthrough tools to edit, program, and modulate biology have emerged and matured in recent years. The fundamental question continues to be whether we know the disease-driving errors in the genetic code of biology to direct these tools, including therapeutics,” said Jeffrey Lu, Engine Biosciences’ Co-Founder and CEO. “We are honoured that this preeminent group of life science and technology investors has recognised the progress our team has made and is supporting our mission to unleash new medicines by deciphering biology.”
Engine has already been progressing its novel biology findings into drug discovery programs and proprietary small molecule inhibitors. It will utilise the new funds to expand its portfolio of precision oncology therapeutics, prepare for its first clinical programs, and scale its proprietary technology platform.
Engine has been built with a global vision from day one, with the mission to use its innovative technologies to address diseases prevalent in multiple geographies, including Asia as well as the US and Europe. Engine has performed several large-scale computational and experimental cycles with respect to genetic interactions and their relevance to multiple cancers, yielding new and subsequently validated discoveries. Engine’s growing and advancing pipeline of targeted therapies for genetically-defined patient populations has shown promise in treating liver, ovarian, colorectal, and breast cancers, representing major areas of unmet medical need and, in total, approximately 2.5 million deaths every year.
Through collaborations, Engine has also demonstrated its platform’s applicability in other disease areas and will continue to enable new therapeutics for more patients.
“We believe Engine’s AI-enabled technology platform has the potential to discover new biology targets and disease-causing links amongst known targets,” said Leon Chen, CEO and Founding Partner of 6 Dimensions Capital. “Considering the field’s tremendous needs for the right drug targets for the right patients and Engine’s unique capabilities in finding those, we continue to be excited by Engine’s potential to power new medicines.”
Two scientific innovations lie at the heart of Engine Biosciences: NetMAPPR and CombiGEM. NetMAPPR is Engine’s searchable biology platform, revealing gene combinations and drug targets integral to diseases. Employing combinatorial CRISPR, CombiGEM enables experimental confirmation of how genes and gene combinations relate to disease in supercharged fashion.
Engine has engineered NetMAPPR to operate in predict-test-learn cycles and scale for many research and drug discovery programs. Advanced computational tools leverage large patient and disease datasets and analyse the vast universe of millions-to-billions of gene interactions, making predictions on the most critical biologies for medicines. Engine uses its patented CombiGEM technology to test hundreds of thousands of gene interactions experimentally in diseased cells, thus breaking through bottlenecks in validation and data generation. The resulting data from well-controlled experiments improves Engine’s machine learning algorithms, while high-ranking genes are prioritised for drug discovery and development.
Compared to conventional approaches that are challenged by human limitations and less efficient and less precise experimental systems and hence cover tiny slices of biology, NetMAPPR searches much wider expanses of the complex architecture of biology at greater speeds, unleashing more new therapeutic opportunities.