SAN FRANCISCO — Breakout Labs, the Thiel Foundation’s seed-stage fund for deep technology companies, has made four new investments, each propelling radical science and technology to improve human health. The new awards bring the total number of companies backed by Breakout Labs to 34 since the program’s first investments in 2012.
“The four new companies joining our portfolio are building on major discoveries at the intersections of biology and technology — areas where science is pushing deeper into unchartered territory, but commercialization often fails to keep pace,” said Lindy Fishburne, Executive Director of Breakout Labs. “The teams at Envisagenics, Gel4Med, LogicInk and SciBac show that while discovery research is critical, it is the risk-taking scientist-entrepreneurs who will make scientific breakthroughs transformational for the world.”
Breakout Labs says its portfolio companies have raised 15 times investment; eight companies have gone on to raise Series A, two have closed Series B rounds and one has been acquired. Below are descriptions about the four companies that were recently funded.
Reducing the complexity of big data in biotech
New York City-based Envisagenics is a bioinformatics company spinout of the prestigious Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, which has created a software platform to help drug makers develop better drugs by replacing manual work with machine-learning algorithms. Their technology, SpliceCore, analyzes large amounts of transcriptomic data from patients to discover genes affected by errors in alternative splicing found in cancer and genetic diseases.
“DNA and RNA sequencing has revolutionized medical research–these data could be the key to unlocking cures for countless diseases—but the technology has quickly created an abundance of data that is difficult to analyze. Our platform will enable efficient analysis of complex data for the discovery of new drug targets,” said Maria Luisa Pineda, CEO of Envisagenics. “This investment will allow us to broaden the impact of our analytical tools, while we also reaping the benefits of Breakout Labs’ unparalleled community,” said Pineda.
Eliminating bacterial resistance while promoting healthy tissue growth
Gel4Med is a regenerative medicine company engineering smart biomaterials to guide tissue regeneration. The company, located in Boston, MA and incubated out of The Harvard Innovation Lab, has developed a flowable tissue scaffolding matrix that promotes safe, infection-free tissue healing without the use of antibiotics. As a result, the technology could prevent postoperative surgical site infections and complications from millions of surgeries around the world.
“Methods for preventing and treating wound infections are becoming less effective due to a rapid increase in Multi-Drug Resistant Organisms, or MDRO’s,” said Dr. Manav Mehta, CEO of Gel4Med. “Our solution, G4Derm, will one day treat patients suffering from wounds ranging from diabetic foot ulcers to battle-field injuries, by preventing infection and promoting tissue regeneration without the concerns of creating further antibiotic resistance — all while being administered quickly and easily by any healthcare professional.”
Tapping data from your body and environment through programmable tattoos
Powered by chemistry and biology, San Francisco-based LogicInk makes electronics-free temporary tattoos that can transform their shape and color to convey specific health information about their user.
“Most wearables currently on the market are bulky, expensive electronic devices—not only are they impractical, but studies have now proven that user engagement is very limited,” said Carlos Olguin, CEO of LogicInk. “We’re meeting the demand of a growing population of users who want to know more about their bodies, and their surrounding environment, and live healthier lives, without the barriers and limitations of existing devices. Our team envisions a future where this new kind of wearable is worn every day, privately or socially, as a conduit of both health-awareness and self-expression,” added Olguin.
Treating antibiotic-resistant diseases and strengthening the human microbiome
SciBac is a biotherapeutics company targeting the growing problem of antibiotic resistant diseases while fortifying the microbiome in the gut, lungs, and skin. Located in Milpitas, California, SciBac’s first product treats and prevents Clostridium difficile infection (CDI), commonly known as deadly diarrhea and our nation’s top antibiotic resistant threat. The company’s second indication treats and prevents chronic Pseudomonas infections in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients.
“When different microbes meet under severe stress in nature, they will sometimes exchange genetic traits allowing each to benefit and thrive. Our platform technology harnesses this rare, natural gene transfer in the lab in a controlled and directed manner, opening the door to rapid strain development in biotechnology,” said Jeanette Mucha, CEO of SciBac. “The Breakout Labs grant will allow us to further advance our C. diff program, developing a live biotherapeutic that can destroy the harmful C. diff pathogen without antibiotics, while nurturing a healthy gut microbiome.”