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Technology B.C. biotech Gandeeva raises US$40M to advance drug discovery

Technology combines machine learning and specialized imaging
B.C. biotech Gandeeva's platform has already been used to produce an image of the COVID-19 Omicron variant spike protein.

B.C.’s bustling biotech sector is getting another big capital injection.

Gandeeva Therapeutics Inc. announced Monday the close of a US $40 million Series A round aimed at advancing drug discovery.

The company, led by University of British Columbia (UBC) Faculty of Medicine professor Sriram Subramaniam, specializes in cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) technology.

This technology helps determine the three-dimensional shape of proteins.

Such imaging is used to examine proteins, how they operate in disease and how to target them with medicines.

Gandeeva’s platform taps machine learning to accelerate this process.

Its platform has already been used to produce an image of the COVID-19 Omicron variant spike protein, published in Science after the variant was first identified last November.

The funding round was led by Lux Capital and Leaps by Bayer, with participation from Obvious Ventures, Amgen Ventures, Amplitude Ventures and Air Street Capital.

“We are excited about Gandeeva’s platform and its potential to combine prediction and experimentation to optimize drug design by visualizing protein-drug interactions and analyzing at the level of atoms with unprecedented speed,” Jurgen Eckhardt, Head of Leaps by Bayer, said in a statement.

B.C. is home to other biotechs leading the way on tackling COVID-19.

UBC spinoff Acuitas Therapeutics Inc. developed the lipid nanoparticle technology (LNP) used in every shot of the Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) messenger RNA vaccine. Acuitas’ LNP technology essentially acts as a delivery vehicle for the mRNA to travel through the human body and enter cells unharmed.

Symvivo Corp., meanwhile, is developing a COVID-19 vaccine that could be taken by pill rather than needle.

And Precision NanoSystems Inc. is currently building a $50 million biomanufacturing facility for its own self-amplifying RNA vaccines. These have the potential to create more potent vaccines as they amplify the signal, allowing PNI to manufacture more doses for less volume.

With all the significant growth in the sector, a 2021 labour market report from BioTalent Canada projects a national shortage of 65,000 workers by 2029. About 5,000 of those unoccupied jobs will be in Vancouver, according to BioTalent Canada CEO Rob Henderson.

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