Fred Hutch spinout SEngine raises $5.1M to test cancer treatment drugs against a patient’s tumors

SEngine tests how safe and effective various cancer drugs are against a patient’s tumor. Each well in the tray pictured above could hold a tiny version of a tumor and a unique drug or combination of drugs. (SEnginge Photo)

Seattle startup SEngine Precision Medicine has raised $5.1 million in fresh funding as it looks to commercialize a platform that can match cancer patients to the right drug and aid in drug discovery. The Series A round was led by the Bangarang Group along with other unnamed investors.

Since every patient’s cancer is unique, it’s important to know which drug or drug combinations will work best. SEngine’s PARIS test grows a patient’s tumor cells in a lab, then analyzes them to determine the safest and most effective medications. Cancer doctors can also pick and choose which drugs they want to test for from SEngine’s library of more than 200 small molecule drugs.

SEngine CEO Dr. Carla Grandori. (SEngine Photo)

Sometimes the test can lead to surprises, like when one patient’s thyroid cancer tumor responded to a drug developed for ovarian cancer. “The mutations that underlie each individual cancer can be very common, even from very disparate cancer types,” said SEngine CEO Dr. Carla Grandori.

In the process of testing cancers from a range of different patients, SEngine also collects data that can be valuable in the hunt for new drugs — an application that Grandori says could be far more lucrative than screening tumors for suitable drugs. The startup recently entered a joint venture with San Francisco-based Atomwise aimed at finding new cancer drugs.

“We continue to see the immense potential for Dr. Grandori and her world-class team to radically transform cancer care through their personalized diagnostic platform and novel drug discovery program,” Elliott Burkland, an investor with the Bangarang Group, said in a statement.

The startup’s advisors include Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, as well as Dr. Leland Hartwell, a Nobel Prize Laureate and former president of Fred Hutch. The company hired former Spaceflight Industries executive Tom Neary as chief financial officer in August.

SEngine, which spun out of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in 2015, previously reported raising $3 million that was part of this Series A round. It also received $755,000 in grant funding from the National Institute of Health in May 2018. The company has raised more than $9 million to date.

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