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.”
Source – PRNewswire