Behind the incredible process of developing targeted gene therapies to fight diseases like cancer lies an incredibly mundane problem that prevents these treatments from getting to patients — paperwork and procedures.
While $5.7 billion was invested in companies developing cellular and genetic therapies, and with 800 clinical trials initiated worldwide and the first two CAR-T cell therapies expected to launch into market later this year, businesses still say the ability to get these treatments to patients is limited by paperwork, supply chain management, and last mile delivery.
So GE (through its GE Ventures arm), the Mayo Clinic (through Mayo Clinic Ventures) and the venture investment firm DFJ have invested $13.75 million to back Vineti — a software platform the companies are billing as a solution to gene therapy’s supply chain problem.
It’s only the sixth company to have actually been built by GE’s internal business team and spun out by the conglomerate’s venture arm.
According to company co-founder and former GE Ventures managing director Amy DuRoss, the process for developing and managing gene therapies is critical to the success of the treatment.
To that end, Vineti’s software tracks logistics, manufacturing and clinical data to improve treatments and drive down the cost of these therapies (which are mainly only accessible to those people with the very best health plans).
The startup’s technology was actually born out of necessity (always the mother of invention) and came from conversations that GE was having with a large, undisclosed customer.
“A pharma company that is a regular client of GE Healthcare said we are solving late stage cancer and we want to take this commercial but we have not got the technology that can ensure that we can scale out these technologies in the commercial phase,” DuRoss told me.
GE’s healthcare business then took the problem to the company’s venture investment and new business arm and began the development process of building a business.
In addition to DuRoss, who has been a luminary in the life sciences field since she helped with the push to get stem cell research approved in California; Vineti has a murderer’s row of leading healthcare talent.
Chief strategy officer Heidi Hagen, was the former SVP of Operations for cell immunotherapy pioneer Dendreon; chief technology officer Razmik Abnous was the chief technology officer at the healthcare data management juggernaut Documentum; and Malek Faham, the company’s chief science officer, literally worked on some of the foundational science for gene therapies.
While the company’s technology could have applications for a number of different treatments, and be used for several kinds of therapies, the focus, for now, is on cancer.
“Cancer is a bullseye,” says DuRoss. “It is arguably the biggest cause of human suffering [and] there are treatments already in phase three,” that if brought to market effectively could mark a turning point in medicine’s battle against the deadly disease, she said.
“We see an opportunity as data accrues to the system over time for a use case in predicting therapy… based on outcome data… but we’re not making these claims today,” said DuRoss.
Mayo Ventures had been working with GE for two years from the initial concept to the close of this new round of financing for Vineti. It’s one of only 15 companies that the Clinic has backed since the formation of Mayo Clinic Ventures, and according to Andy Danielsen, the vice chair of Mayo Clinic Ventures.
“One thing with Vineti that we liked is that we have a commitment to cell and gene therapies at Mayo,” said Danielsen, so the interests were aligned. “Vineti will make the gene and cell therapy production process more efficient and as a result, less costly. It’s all part of the equation of making these therapies more affordable and opening them up to a greater number of people.”