Pfizer joins startup's Big Pharma backers in $18M round


Pfizer ($PFE) has become the latest Big Pharma firm to invest in Metabomed, a biotech that is using computational biology to discover cancer metabolism drugs. Through the $18 million Series A round, Metabomed has gained the financial clout to advance drugs toward clinical trials while burnishing its reputation as a darling of Big Pharma VC teams.

Metabomed has landed the investment on the back of its work to turn computational biology-driven cancer metabolism research by academics into a drug discovery engine. The engine is underpinned by academic work dating back to 2011, specifically an attempt to use modelling to predict the pairs of genes that can take down cancer cells. That project identified 99 pairs the model suggested could be targeted to attack a tumor without harming healthy cells, including some genes Metabomed now plans to use as a testing ground for its computer-enabled drug discovery engine.

"They provide a very good translational story from the in vitro, in silico approach, all through very predictive animal models and into the clinic," Metabomed CEO Simone Botti told FierceBiotech. "This should allow us to extend this story to other cancers where the loss of these tumor suppressor genes is not necessarily a germline loss."

Botti is taking on the CEO role after working with Metabomed in his capacity as head of MS Ventures' Israel BioIncubator, a position he is leaving to run the startup. MS Ventures, the VC wing of Merck KGaA, helped Metabomed get started, notably by housing the firm at its Israel BioIncubator.

The incubator has shown a keen interest in IT-enabled biotechs. Neviah Genomics, a company that is applying a machine-trained algorithm to predict the risk of drug-induced liver injury, was the first company to join the incubator, which has since added Metabomed to its ranks. 

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