Aqtual bags $16m for precision medicine platform, initiates rheumatoid arthritis trial

Liquid biopsy platform measures epigenetics, gene regulation, and transcriptomics by analyzing cell-free DNA from a single blood draw.

Precision medicine company Aqtual has secured $16 million in Series A funding, co-led by Genoa Ventures, Manta Ray Ventures, and Yu Galaxy. With an initial focus on rheumatoid arthritis, the Hayward, California-based company is developing diagnostic solutions for chronic diseases and oncology through its “cell-free DNA platform.”

Aqtual’s platform leverages cell-free DNA fragments present in the bloodstream to assess protein regulation, epigenetics, and transcriptomics. The company claims its platform boasts the ability to analyze 200,000 gene promoters, 400,000 enhancers, 50,000 insulators, 20,000 silencers, and one million transcription factor binding sites.

“Eliminating background noise to develop diagnostics with great sensitivity has been the gold standard of liquid biopsy, but it turns out that ‘noise’ is a clinically relevant, information-rich radio frequency that Aqtual has learned to amplify,” said Dr Diana Abdueva, CEO of Aqtual. “Our platform provides a comprehensive catalog of regulatory features to give a holistic perspective on gene and chromatin regulation, advance our understanding of disease and resistance mechanisms, and lead to innovative blood tests in the costliest disease areas.”

By delving into previously unexplored cell-free DNA fragments, the company’s technology is thought to hold potential in a wide array of clinical applications across various disease areas.

“This new understanding of circulating cell-free DNA unlocks previously unattainable applications that can help doctors make better decisions for their patients,” added Dr Rich Rava, CTO of Aqtual. “It also provides a new roadmap for drug discovery and development across multiple therapeutic areas.”

Clinical trial in RA

Aqtual also revealed it has commenced a prospective clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of its technology in selecting treatments for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The multicenter study is enrolling 150 individuals diagnosed with the condition, with the goal of creating a classifier capable of predicting the most effective drug classes for individual patients. The research aims to address the current challenge where rheumatoid arthritis patients often undergo multiple costly drug trials before finding an effective treatment.

“Aqtual’s technology has the potential to majorly improve treatment decisions and patient outcomes in rheumatoid arthritis,” said Dr Peter Taylor, a rheumatologist at the University of Oxford. 

Taylor is set to present preliminary data from Aqtual’s platform at the American College of Rheumatology’s annual meeting in San Diego, scheduled for November 10-15. The presentation will shed light on how Aqtual’s cell-free DNA platform can detect rheumatoid arthritis, its correlation with synovial biopsies, and its ability to differentiate rheumatoid arthritis from other autoimmune conditions and osteoarthritis.

In addition to inflammatory conditions, Aqtual indicates its technology also holds potential in oncology, immunology, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic diseases and neurological conditions.

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