NEW YORK, May 22, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Envisagenics, Inc., a New York based biotechnology company, announced today that it was awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This grant will provide $1.5 million over two years for Envisagenics' continued development of SpliceCore, a cloud-based drug discovery platform that analyzes RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) data to accelerate RNA therapeutics discovery using innovative machine learning and artificial intelligence to identify new biomarkers and drug targets.
Envisagenics focuses on RNA splicing, the molecular process that shapes the genetic message extracted from DNA to produce functional proteins required for our body to work. Errors in this process can cause devastating diseases: at least 370 genetic diseases identified to date can be caused by splicing errors, such as Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a neurodegenerative disease that kills more children than any other genetic disease. "The discovery of disease-causing proteins was at the center of pharma innovation for decades, but the new century brought us not only better knowledge of genetic information but also the computer power to interpret it," says Dr. Martin Akerman, Co-founder and CTO of Envisagenics. "The RNA splicing treatments that we develop target the flow of genetic information, so disease-causing proteins cannot be formed in the first place."
The company was previously awarded a $225,000 Phase I SBIR grant in 2015. Funding was used to develop a scalable infrastructure to efficiently analyze massive amounts of RNA-seq data, to build the largest database of RNA-splicing events, and to develop machine learning algorithms to prioritize disease relevant splicing errors. The SBIR Phase II award will allow Envisagenics to substantially expand the platform's knowledgebase and predictive functions.
A portion of the phase II work will be carried out at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as a collaboration with Dr. Adrian Krainer, a leader in the field of RNA splicing. Completing the investigative team is Dr. Thomas Tuschl, professor and Head of the Laboratory of RNA Molecular Biology at The Rockefeller University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.
"We are grateful for the continued support from the NIH and for their recognition of the potential of AI drug discovery platforms like ours to discover novel therapies," said Dr. Maria Luisa Pineda, Co-founder and CEO of Envisagenics. "We're excited for the next stage of growth for the company to leverage the power of AI and RNA-seq data internally and in collaboration with biopharma partners to unlock new treatments."
Envisagenics was founded in 2014 as a spinout of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The company's mission is to reduce the complexity of biomedical data to accelerate the development of innovative therapeutic solutions through RNA splicing analytics and artificial intelligence. Envisagenics focuses on the discovery of RNA therapeutics. Over 30 million people in the US suffer from genetic diseases or cancer that could be caused by mutations affecting RNA splicing. 370 human diseases are known to be caused by splicing errors, and more remain to be discovered.
Envisagenics' breakthrough technology, SpliceCore, is a cloud-based platform that is experimentally validated to predict drug targets and biomarkers through splicing discovery from RNA-seq data, using Artificial Intelligence. The company is using its software to identify splicing errors causative of diseases, identify the right drug-targets and develop RNA therapeutics through partnerships and collaborations with Biopharma. Envisagenics' in-silico RNA therapeutics discovery platform replaces expensive drug-target selection and lead design with efficient computer simulations, decreasing time, cost, and failure risk of drug development programs. For more information, visit www.envisagenics.com.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.
About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Founded in 1890, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology. Home to eight Nobel Prize winners, the private, not-for-profit Laboratory employs 1,100 people including 600 scientists, students and technicians. The Meetings & Courses Program hosts more than 12,000 scientists from around the world each year on its campuses in Long Island and in Suzhou, China. The Laboratory's education arm also includes an academic publishing house, a graduate school and programs for middle and high school students and teachers. For more information, visit www.cshl.edu.
About The Rockefeller University
The Rockefeller University is the world's leading biomedical research university and is dedicated to conducting innovative, high-quality research to improve the understanding of life for the benefit of humanity. The university's unique approach to science has led to some of the world's most revolutionary and transformative contributions to biology and medicine. During Rockefeller's 117-year history, our scientists have won 25 Nobel Prizes, 22 Albert Lasker Medical Research Awards, and 20 National Medals of Science.
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