Fauna closes $9 million to expand drug discovery platform

Leveraging animal genomics to improve human health, Fauna Bio set to expand its comparative genomics platform for novel target drug discovery.

Silicon Valley biotech startup Fauna Bio has raised $9 million in seed funding. The company says the new funds will be used to “expand its drug discovery platform while accelerating the discovery of new therapeutic targets for human diseases across a broad range of indications.”

Longevity.Technology: When we spoke with Fauna CEO Ashley Zehnder last month, she told us that new funding would enable the company to prove that it has “a repeatable, scalable platform that can go into many disease areas.” Now, with an extra $9 million in the bank, this interesting company has the backing to start doing just that.

Fauna is tapping into potential of comparative and functional genomics to find better therapies for human disease, including neurologic, metabolic, fibrotic, and cardiovascular disorders.

Speaking to us about today’s funding, Zehnder said, “These funds support the expansion of our computational and research teams as well as bringing in an experienced drug development professional to oversee our internal program development and partnerships.  We are greatly expanding the breadth of our target testing capabilities by screening hundreds of new targets and compounds across three new disease areas while expanding on our existing programs in retinal disease, cardiac disease and fibrosis as well as our discovery datasets through key academic partnerships.”

Addressing unanswered questions

The initial version of the company’s discovery platform uses gene expression data from hibernating mammals due to their ability to reverse disease-causing traits. To date, the platform has identified two compounds and four novel genetic targets currently undergoing evaluation for heart disease and related disorders.

In addition, Fauna collaborates with Novo Nordisk on a target discovery program for obesity, and the company has also identified seven novel genetic targets to reduce fibrosis, which is a core component of many chronic and debilitating diseases.

“Studying human biology and genetics alone has still left us with many unanswered questions, gaps in knowledge, and without treatments to many serious diseases that could be aided by looking outside our own species,” said Zehnder in a statement about today’s funding. “Through millions of years of evolution, animals have developed ways to naturally resist and heal from a range of conditions that still plague humans. We are using these natural synergies between us and other mammals to improve health and wellness and, ultimately, longevity in humans.”

New investors join the round

The new round was led by new investor LifeForce Capital, with participation from True Ventures, Boom Capital, Pacific 8 Ventures, BioMed Ventures, Vibe Capital and Arcadia Science.

Lifeforce Capital invests in companies that are creating new ways to solve the biggest problems in healthcare,” said John Noonan, Managing Partner of LifeForce Capital. “The all-female co-founding team at Fauna Bio exemplifies the cross-discipline collaboration the field of medicine needs to foster innovation and achieve real progress in discovering new ways to treat serious diseases.”

Fauna co-founders Katie Grabek, Ashley Zehnder and Linda Goodman.

Fauna also announced that Dr Bryan Burkey has joined the company as its Head of Therapeutics Discovery. An experienced drug discovery and development professional, Burkey led biology and translational pharmacology efforts at Novartis Research for 23 years.

Images courtesy of Fauna Bio