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7 January, 2021 - 10:16 By Tony Quested

Cambridge startup raises a further $7m for cancer lab in the cloud

Cambridge oncology startup Turbine.ai has now raised almost $11 million in two rounds after closing a pre-Series A round of $6.85m.

Today’s transatlantic round was led by new investor Accel and included XTX Ventures and Boston Millennia Partners who joined the existing syndicate comprising Delin Ventures, Atlantic Labs and o2h Ventures. 

The startup is building a simulation-based drug discovery platform, which runs experiments in the cloud. So while many wet-labs were forced to halt their activities as COVID struck last year Turbine.ai was able to continue identifying novel targets for high unmet need oncology diseases. 

With investors of such calibre, the business hopes to progress these programmes towards transformative drug development.

Most wet-lab experiments offer limited insight into the complex underlying biology of the disease. As a result, existing preclinical models in oncology often fail to translate into successful drugs in the clinic. 

To improve these outcomes, Turbine has created the Simulated Cell™ comprising an advanced digital model of human cell behaviour and cloud-based simulated experiments. The Simulated Cell™ can rapidly run unlimited number of experiments in comparison to wet-lab methods.     

The platform – guided by AI algorithms – offers significant benefits over industry gold standard screening methods, such as CRISPR, by providing granular insight into the molecular mechanism of target-disease interactions. 

Supported by an enhanced biological understanding of the target intervention and the subset of cancer patients most likely to respond, Turbine’s simulation-based approach increases the likelihood of clinical success. 

The team aims to tackle the highest unmet need in oncology diseases, following the launch of a PARP resistance-focused pipeline in 2019. PARP inhibition is the most established area for ground-breaking cancer therapies in DNA Damage Response. 

However, it poses challenges for drug development as around 40 per cent of patients do not respond to PARP inhibitors, and the majority of those who do, acquire resistance after two years. 

Turbine has uncovered three novel target candidates against multiple PARP resistance mechanisms with its lead asset in hit validation phase. 

Szabolcs Nagy, CEO of Turbine said: “The proceeds from the current financing will be used to tackle additional areas of high unmet need in oncology with novel simulation-first targets and progressing the PARP resistance portfolio towards later stages of development.” 

Turbine.ai raised $3.7m last November.

• PHOTOGRAPH: Turbine.ai co-founders Kristof Szalay, CTO; Szabolcs Nagy, CEO; Daniel Veres, CMO.

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