CHICAGO – Enhanc3D Genomics, a British startup that has developed a bioinformatics platform for high-resolution 3D mapping of noncoding regions of the human genome, said Thursday that it has closed a £10 million ($11.2 million) Series A financing round.
BGF and Parkwalk Advisors led the round, with participation from previous investor Bioqube Ventures and several individual investors.
Enhanc3D Genomics CEO Debora Lucarelli called this the company's emergence from stealth mode and public launch. The firm spun out of the laboratory of spatial genomics researcher Peter Fraser at the Cambridge, UK-based institute in January 2020. Lucarelli also enlisted Stefan Schoenfelder, a specialist in 3D functional organization of genomes at Babraham, to help spin out the company.
Lucarelli, former laboratory head of the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, started Enhanc3D Genomics after a short stint as director of biomarker discovery at Cambridge Epigenetix. She also was a research scientist at Oxford Nanopore Technologies from 2009 to 2011.
Enhanc3D Genomics received £250,000 in startup funding from the Cambridge-based Start Codon business accelerator program in 2020 and closed a £1.5 million seed round a year later, backed by Bioqube Ventures, Start Codon, and two private investors. The company also received an unspecified grant earlier this year from Johnson & Johnson Innovation's Immunology Innovations QuickFire Challenge.
"It has taken a couple of years to find the right fit, the right setup, the right partners, and the right market," Lucarelli said.
The firm's flagship technology, GenLink3D, adds machine learning to molecular biology techniques to map 3D genome structures in high resolution. Fraser, now executive director of the Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine at Florida State University, created the GenLink3D software.
GenLink3D features a proprietary algorithm that Enhanc3D calls "promoter capture" technology, which facilitates the mapping of previously unseen biomarkers in the human genome. The technology also supports direct, efficient decoding and organization of variants into disease mechanisms.
Lucarelli said that the firm works with the whole genome with the goal of filling in missing pieces in noncoding regions.
"People still don't have a full view" of the human genome, she said. "There are too many connections."
It will take a clearer picture of the complete genome to achieve what Lucarelli called "patient-centric medicine," a subset of precision medicine that examines why some people respond to certain treatments and others do not.
She said that GenLink3D allows researchers to look for "genetic rewiring," or variations from person to person, disease to disease, and cell to cell that can explain causality based on certain mutations.
"We use [GenLink3D] sometimes for target discovery," Lucarelli explained. "We identify novel targets from a drug discovery point of view that actually haven't been seen before because they are too distant in the genome to be identified."
Enhanc3D Genomics expects to work with pharmaceutical and academic partners to advance drug discovery based on these targets. The firm has its own wet lab to conduct some of the research itself, Lucarelli said, and is preparing to move into a larger facility in Cambridge.
The company said that its initial focus will be on identifying novel biomarkers to stratify patients and find treatment targets in cancer, aging, and autoimmune disorders including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Some small proof-of-concept studies are underway to show that the platform is "agnostic" in terms of disease, according to Lucarelli.
One partner for these pilots is the University of Manchester's lupus program. The firm did not disclose its other partners, but said that it has collaborations underway in the Netherlands and Italy.
The initial market for Enhanc3D will be in the UK and EU.
In conjunction with the launch, Enhanc3D Genomics named Chris Torrance nonexecutive chair of its board. Torrance is founder and chairman of British biopharma company PhoreMost.
The Enhanc3D Genomics team includes geneticists, software engineers, mathematicians, and physicians, according to Lucarelli.
In addition to GenLink3D, the startup is considering other software products from artificial intelligence-based algorithms — including predictive analytics — it has developed but not yet released for analyzing genomic sequencing data. One such potential product would identify classes of patients from disease signatures present in genomic and other biological data, Lucarelli said.