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Synthetic Bio Company Starts Up, Raises $53 Million

Circuit graphic

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

27 February 2018. A start-up business that aims to apply principles of computer circuit design to biology and medicine in creating treatments for disease is raising $53 million in its first venture funding round. The company Senti Biosciences in South San Francisco, California is founded by biology and engineering researchers at Harvard University, MIT, and Boston University.

Senti Biosciences is developing solutions it calls adaptive therapies, designed to deliver more precise treatments than many of today’s drugs that the company says lack effectiveness and present safety issues, such as adverse side effects. Current therapies, says Senti Bio, are taken systemically rather than addressing specific tissues, have only a single way of working in the body, and cannot be adjusted for the severity of the disease, nor can they be regulated once taken.

The company’s technology borrows concepts from computer circuit design in solutions it calls synthetic gene circuits. These gene circuits, says Senti Bio, allow for cells to be programmed with instructions from synthetic genes, providing more control over delivery of therapies to address varying levels of severity, and even multiple illnesses at once. In addition, says the company, gene circuits can act as sensors for disease indicators, deliver treatments to precise locations in the body, and build in safeguards against adverse effects. Moreover, says the company, gene circuits can be designed, built, and tested with much the same iterative development approach as integrated circuits.

Senti Bio’s scientific founders are biological engineering faculty James Collins at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute and MIT, and Wilson Wong at Boston University. Collins labs study engineered gene networks, working with genome editing tools such as Crispr, as well as stem cells. Collins also develops synthetic organisms, such as probiotics, to address the growing problem of bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics. Wong’s lab applies circuit design principles to synthetic biology to build in desired properties to mammalian cells. Much of his work is devoted to engineering human immune system cells to better combat various types of cancer.

The company’s first venture financing is led by New Enterprise Associates, a technology and health care venture investment company, raising $53 million, Taking part in the funding round are investors 8VC, Amgen Ventures, Pear Ventures, Lux Capital, Menlo Ventures, Allen & Company, Nest.Bio, Omega Funds, Goodman Capital, and LifeForce Capital.

Tim Lu, Senti Bio’s co-founder and CEO says in a company statement, “This funding round will accelerate the scaling of our genetic circuit programming platform and its translation into clinical treatments.”

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