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Singapore-based biotech firm Engine Biosciences raises SGD 57 million to advance cancer treatment

Written by Khamila Mulia Published on     3 mins read

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Engine Biosciences applies machine learning to genomics for drug discovery and therapy optimization.

Singapore biotech startup Engine Biosciences has collected SGD 57 million (USD 43 million) in a Series A funding round led by American investment firm Polaris Partners, the company announced on Wednesday.

Other investors that participated in the round are 6 Dimensions Capital, WuXi AppTec, DHVC, EDBI, Baidu Ventures, and Goodman Capital, among others. The new investment brings Engine Biosciences total funding to SGD 70 million (USD 52.9 million).

Established in 2016, Engine Biosciences applies machine learning and other experimental systems to genomics for drug discoveries and the development of specific therapies. The company wants to use its technologies to address diseases, such as multiple types of cancers, in geographies including Asia, the US, and Europe.

“By deciphering complex networks of gene interactions and decoding biology underlying diseases, we are changing the way target identification and drug discovery is performed, unleashing better results, especially new targeted drugs and biomarkers for precision medicine,” Engine Biosciences’ co-founder and CEO Jeffrey Lu told KrASIA.

Lu explained that the technology helps doctors to better understand specific gene mutations in each patient’s tumor, making the disease more vulnerable to specific drugs. “Because our platform can continuously improve, repeat, and scale to discover and develop new products for each disease and patient subpopulation we pursue, we see the possibility of life-changing impacts by powering precision medicine into the next generation,” Lu added.

Engine Biosciences co-founder and CEO Jeffrey Lu. Courtesy of Engine Biosciences.

Engine Biosciences has two technologies, called NetMAPPR and CombiGEM. “Our NetMAPPR platform tackles a particular and important biological problem: How to efficiently identify the most critical genes and combinations of genes for diseases among the millions-to-billions of possibilities for each disease and patient subpopulation,” Lu added.

The firm uses its patented CombiGEM technology to test hundreds of thousands of gene interactions experimentally in diseased cells. High-ranking genes from the tests are prioritized for drug discovery and development, while the data from the experiment also serves to improve the company’s machine learning algorithms. 

The startup plans to use the fresh capital to further scale its techology, broaden its team, and expand its research portfolio. Engine’s portfolio includes targeted therapy and precision medicine programs to treat multiple cancers, including liver, colorectal, ovarian, and breast cancers. Moreover, the firm will prepare its first clinical programs set to launch in 2023 in Singapore.

“We have already unleashed multiple new first-in-class drugs discoveries and development programs that could change the treatment of multiple cancers. Each of these represents a substantial clinical and commercial opportunity. Our platform gives us the ability to assemble a broad portfolio of compelling and unique assets that are diversified in risk and expansive in upside,” said Lu.

Engine Biosciences has also cooperated with partners including biotech and pharma companies in the US, which can access the startup’s research of diseases for drug development. “We work in risk-sharing and reward-sharing collaborative models,” Lu added, without disclosing the name of the firm’s partners.

Other biotech companies in Singapore have recently received significant funding for research and expansion. Austrianova, a firm that uses proprietary technology to encapsulate cells and bacteria for usage in the medical space, secured a USD 100 million commitment to boost its production capacity in April, while digital therapeutic firm Biofourmis raised USD 100 million in September 2020 to develop AI-powered remote medical tools.

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