Birmingham-based Help Lightning raises $8 million for its remote training and support tools

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In the four years since Help Lightning first began pitching its services out of its Birmingham, Ala. headquarters, the company has managed to sign up 100 customers including some large Fortune 500 companies like Cox Communications, Siemens, and Boston Scientific.

Now, with an additional $8 million in financing from Resolve Growth Partners, the company is hoping to expand its sales and marketing efforts and continue to refine its product.

The technology was initially invented by Bart Guthrie, a neurosurgeon at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who wanted a way to improve telepresence technologies so he could assist with remote surgeries.

What Guthrie developed was a technology that could merge video streams to that experts could remotely monitor, manage, and assist in everything from service repairs to surgery.

“Think of it as a video call on steroids,” says Gary York, the company’s chief executive officer. A serial entrepreneur, York was brought on board by Guthrie to help commercialize the technology four years ago.

The technology works on any android or iOS device and is accessed through a mobile browser. The company now boasts over 100 customers including Cox, Canon, Unisys, and Boston Scientific. And its usage has soared since the advent of the pandemic, according to York.

“We saw call volume quadruple,” he said.

For instance, Cox Communications uses the technology to provide virtual trouble shooting to replace in-home service visits for customers. At Siemens, service technicians who fix medical imaging and lab diagnostic equipment can use the Help Lightning to link up with experts to troubleshoot fixes in real time. York would not comment on pricing, but said that the company provides custom quotes based on usage.

“After evaluating the virtual expertise software market for over a year, our diligence is clear that Help Lightning has built a highly differentiated solution that is valued by its customers” said Jit Sinha, co-founder and Managing Director from Resolve, in a statement earlier this week. “Help Lightning has a tremendous opportunity to power the success of this rapidly emerging market. We’re thrilled to be partnering with Gary York and his talented team.”

 

Impossible Foods gobbles up another $200 million

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Impossible Foods has raised $200 million more for its meat replacements.

The new round was led by Coatue, a technology-focused hedge fund, another New York-based hedge fund, XN, also participated in the round.

Since its launch the company has raised $1.5 billion from investors including Mirae Asset Global Investments, Temasek. The presence of these new public/private investment firms on Impossible Foods’ cap table could mean that the company is readying itself for an initial public offering, but that’s just speculation.

The company said it would use the funding to increase its research and development efforts and work on new products like pork, steak, and milk as well as expand its internationalization efforts and build out its manufacturing capacity.

“The use of animals to make food is the most destructive technology on Earth, a leading driver of climate change and the primary cause of a catastrophic global collapse of wildlife populations and biodiversity,” said the incredibly credentialed Dr. Patrick O. Brown, M.D., Ph.D., CEO and Founder of Impossible Foods, in a statement. “Impossible Foods’ mission is to replace that archaic system by making the most delicious, nutritious and sustainable meats in the world, directly from plants. To do that, Impossible Foods needs to sustain our exponential growth in production and sales, and invest significantly in R&D. Our investors believe in our mission to transform the global food system — and they recognize an extraordinary economic opportunity.”

Starting with Michigan, Sidewalk Infrastructure is looking to build roads specifically for autonomous cars

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Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, which spun out of Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs to fund and develop the next generation of infrastructure, has taken the covers off of its first big project — the launch of a subsidiary called Cavnue to develop roadways for connected and autonomous vehicles.

Starting in Michigan, Cavnue will be working with partners including Ford, GM, Argo AI, Arrival, BMW, Honda, Toyota, TuSimple and Waymo on standards to develop the physical and digital infrastructure needed to move connected and autonomous cars out of pilot projects and onto America’s highways, freeways, interstates, and city streets.

The starting point for Cavnue is a 40-mile corridor between downtown Detroit and Ann Arbor, Mich. that will be dedicated to autonomous vehicles.

Cavnue will be the master developer of the 40-mile roadway, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday in a joint announcement with Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners.

“The action we’re taking today is good for our families, our businesses, and our economy as a whole. Here in Michigan, the state that put the world on wheels, we are taking the initial steps to build the infrastructure to help us test and deploy the cars of the future,” Whitmer said in a statement. “As we rebuild our roads to ensure every Michigander can drive to work and drop their kids at school safely, we will also continue working to build smart infrastructure to help prepare us for the roads of tomorrow.”

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Image via Getty Images / petovarga

The Detroit-to-Ann Arbor corridor will include communities along Michigan Avenue and Interstate 94 in Wayne County and Washtenaw County like the University of Michigan, the Detroit Metropolitan Airport and Michigan Central Station. The corridor will also include up to 12 “Opportunity Zones” where communities and small businesses will be able to connect to the industrial, technological and academic hubs of the region, according to the company’s statement.

For the first phase of the project, Cavnue will work with a slew of Michigan state agencies, including the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification and the Michigan Department of Transportation, on a feasibility and design study that is expected to last about two years.

Initial work during the project’s first phase will look at the commercial and technological viability of the roadway’s design. Connected buses and shared mobility vehicles like vans and shuttles will be the first users of the roadway before it is eventually expanded to other types of connected autonomous vehicles, including freight and personal vehicles, according to a statement from Cavnue.

Key partners

In 2018, Bill Ford envisioned a connected corridor similar to the one that Cavnue is proposing to build — envisioning the company’s Corktown innovation hub as an east end node in a circuit that would run along the Ann Arbor to Detroit corridor. Now Ford is a key partner in Cavnue’s project

Ford has been a key partner as Cavnue pursued the development of this project, the company said. Cavnue is also leaning on other partners, including the University of Michigan with its CAV research center and Mcity Test Facility, Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), and facilities along the proposed corridor as well as the testing facility American Center for Mobility.

“My vision for Michigan Central is to create an open mobility innovation district that solves tomorrow’s transportation challenges and improves mobility access for everyone,” said Ford, the executive chairman of his eponymous car company, in a statement. “Building out a connected corridor cements Michigan as a leader in creating a more connected, autonomous and electrified future. We thank the state for recognizing the community and economic benefits and the importance of creating smart infrastructure across southeast Michigan.”   

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Image Credits: Andrey Suslov / Getty Images

Human error behind the wheel of cars is a leading cause of death around the country and in Michigan 10,000 people have died in fatal automobile crashes over the last decade. Companies like Cavnue’s partners including Ford, GM, Argo AI, Arrival, BMW, Honda, Toyota, TuSimple and Waymo, argue that connected and autonomous vehicles can reduce those fatalities while also cutting the hours commuters spend in traffic.

The sweeping nature of Cavnue’s mission is also an admission of sorts that the commercial deployment of autonomous vehicles is further away than this nascent industry initially thought. Born of a innovation event at Google’s headquarters, the seed for Cavnue comes from the realization that level five autonomy (the fully autonomous vehicles that require no human intervention) are still a concept for futurists, rather than a near-term opportunity.

To justify the billions of dollars of investment required to continue research and development around autonomy, companies need near-term applications. And those applications will require physical infrastructure to work.

For municipalities worried about congestion and the abandonment of light rail systems and other mass transit solutions in the age of COVID-19, these dedicated lanes may provide new sources of revenue for autonomous public transit and a way for companies to test their autonomous systems safely in the context of a much larger pilot project.

One thing that some of the planners envisioned was the use of autonomous shuttles as a replacement for light rail and the potential for a far more dynamic solution. Vehicles could be scaled up and down according to demand and shared routes could speed efficiency and reduce the time it takes to get to a destination, these planners said.

Financing could come from the manufacturers of autonomous systems who would get new testing grounds for their technology and eventually individuals who owned cars with advanced driving systems could pay for access to the lanes using the dead space between public transit vehicles.

Ostensibly, someone could pay $10 to access the road and then put their vehicle into autonomous mode. Public transit and private delivery fleets would be prioritized, and vehicles would have to demonstrate that it has autonomous capabilities to even access the roadways.

Autonomous Vehicle

Image Credit: Getty Images

The new service would depend on a new type of public private partnership based on outcomes that could be measured by the number of public fare rates the new lanes generate. Companies like Cavnue would source the vehicles and build the infrastructure. It would provide the capital expenditures for the roadway and retain the rights to sell access to the autonomous-enabled cars when use permits.

If it works in Michigan, some of the state’s congressional leadership intend to push for the expansion of the plan across the country.

“Michigan is at the forefront of this new frontier in mobility. Our state is home to a dense nexus of automakers, suppliers, engineers, universities and testing facilities that are pioneering advances in transportation that will transform how we get around,” said Michigan Senator Gary Peters. “This announcement is a major step forward towards ensuring Michigan continues to be the center of self-driving car research and development. I’m going to continue working at the federal level to develop a federal framework for the safe deployment of these revolutionary – and live-saving – technologies.”

Not everyone is convinced that the investment makes sense, though. 

“That’s an enormous investment in grey infrastructure. That’s a major infrastructure project,” said one infrastructure expert who declined to be identified because she was not authorized to speak about the project. “That’s something that you’re locking into. You’re locking into that design and locking in to that use case… The dedicated lanes are not something that’s being put forward by transportation advocates. I’ve only heard it from people who work with autonomous vehicles and have a vested interest in seeing their adoption.”

Valence, the site dedicated to increasing economic opportunity for the Black community, raises $5.25 million

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Valence, the Los Angeles-based online community dedicated to increasing economic opportunity for the Black community, has raised $5.25 million in financing as it looks to continue to expand its network for Black professionals in all fields.

The timing for the investment is critical as the country reckons with the implications and effects of systemic racism. In no field is the under-representation of Black professionals more deeply felt than the tech industry, where lack of diversity can have profound implications on products and services that are becoming increasingly central to large swaths of the economy.

Problems with under-representation and underlying issues of systemic racism manifest in facial recognition technologies, social networking applications and decision-making software for lending and credit that are aspects of how American society functions.

It’s with an eye toward technology and entrepreneurship that Valence raised its most recent round, according to a letter sent to the company’s users by new chief executive officer Guy Primus.

“Now that we have the capital that we were seeking, we will be doing three things. First we will improve the current product. We are very proud of what we have built thus far, but we know there are a few issues. We will continue to address those issues and will accelerate work to enhance technical performance on the platform,” Primus wrote. “Second, we will be expanding the team. We expect the team to more than triple in the coming months so that we can better serve you. Finally, we’ll be adding features and expanding our services. We will be delivering additional tools that facilitate even more meaningful connections and will expand Valence’s scope to include the professional growth and development of our members.”

A lot of that product development will go toward building tools that can help with professional development and career growth.

We’re being very targeted in how we can drive economic opportunity and wealth creation in the black community,” said Valence co-founder and Upfront Ventures general partner Kobie Fuller.  

Already, Valence has brought on some of the top names in Silicon Valley as participants in a program to promote entrepreneurship and career development.

Valence currently has 10,000 people signed up for the platform and is growing at about 20% per month, according to Primus. The goal is to serve educational advice and tools to Valence users while at the same time making that group of career-minded Black professionals available to companies that would want to hire them.

Primus said that Valence will be selling its database and access to companies that would want to find prospective hires on the platform in a per-seat licensing model that would be accessible to headhunters and human resources departments.

The new investment round was led by GGV Capital, the international investment firm whose investments include Slack, Peloton, Wish and StockX. Hans Tung, the managing director who invested in those marquee deals, will be joining the company’s board of directors.

Other investors in the round include Upfront Ventures, along with Maveron, the SoftBank Opportunity Fund and Silicon Valley Bank.

 

With technology to perfect product pitches in digital marketplaces Pattern raises $52 million

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Pattern, a Lehi, Utah-based reseller that offers large and small brands a way to optimize their sales on marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Walmart and Google Shopping, has raised $52 million in growth funding, the company said.

The money, from Ainge Advisory and KSV Global, will be used to expand the company’s business worldwide.

Founded in 2013, the e-commerce reseller uses analytics to lock down market specific keywords in advertising and has managed to reach a run-rate that should see it hit $500 million in annual revenue by the end of 2020, according to Pattern co-founder and chief investment officer, Melanie Alder.

Brands like Nestle, Pandora, Panasonic, Zebra and Skechers sell their goods to Pattern in an effort to juice sales on digital marketplaces.

“Pattern represents our brands in the US, across Europe, and in select markets in Asia, selling for us on global marketplaces such as Amazon, Walmart, Tmall, and JD as well as building and managing three of our direct-to-consumer sites,” said Kyle Bliffert, CEO and president of Atrium Innovations, a Nestle Health Science company, in a statement. “The global e-commerce growth we have experienced by leveraging Pattern’s expertise is extraordinary.”

Pattern places bets on where a product is likely to receive the most attention using specific keywords, according to the company’s chief executive, Dave Wright. The company buys products from its brand partners and then sells them widely across marketplaces in the US, Europe and Asia. These markets represent $2.7 trillion in total sales and Wright expects it to reach $7 trillion by 2024.

As Wright noted, a majority of searchers for sales begin on Amazon . The company just opened its eighteenth location in Germany. Pattern has grown sales for brands from $3 million to $26 million and the company makes money off of the margin on the sales of products. With the new funding, the company intends to expand into other geographies like Japan and India.

Wright says his company addresses one of the fundamental problems with advertising technology — the proliferation of tools hasn’t meant better optimization for most brands, because they’re teams aren’t equipped to specialize.

While there may be hundreds of different advertising and marketing folks working at a company, each company may have hundreds of brands that it sells and the dedicated teams to specific brands may only have one or two  people on staff.

“Data makes all the difference,” said co-founder and CEO Dave Wright. “I’ve spent the bulk of my career in data science and data management, and our ability to detect and act on ‘patterns’ on ecommerce platforms has allowed the brands we represent to be incredibly successful.”

Focusing on human and climate health, S2G Ventures launches ocean fund with $100 million in commitments

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S2G Ventures, the Chicago-based investment firm focusing on startups developing technology and services for human and planetary health, is launching a new investment vehicle focused on seafood and oceanic cultivation.

The firm was an investor in Beyond Meat, the $9 billion-valued publicly traded meat replacement startups that’s been one of the biggest recent success stories in the market for food science startups. It also holds stakes in companies like the healthy food chain, Sweetgreen, the microbial meat replacement technology developer Future Meat Technologies, robotic harvesting tech developer, Augean Robotics, food preservation technology developer Apeel, and other food and agriculture-focused tech companies.

Now the firm is turning its attention to the oceans. It has already received commitments for $100 million in new capital to finance the endeavor and added Kate Danaher, the former chief lending officer at RSF Social Finance, and Larsen Mettler, the former owner and chief financial officer of Silver Bay Seafoods as managing directors to oversee the oceans and seafood strategy.

The new investment vehicle will invest in early, venture, and growth stage companies globally that are developing alternative proteins and seafood, aquaculture, supply chain innovaiton, transparency, algae and seaweed cultivation and commercialization and ecosystem services, according to a statement.

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IZMIR, TURKEY – APRIL 25 : An aerial view of fish farm, raising a new breed ‘Egeli’ fish, in Izmir’s Karaburun district, Turkey on April 25, 2019. ‘Egeli’ fish, cross breeding of sea bream and dentex, are expected to be put on sale in a year. (Photo by Mahmut Serdar Alakus/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Seafood is a primary source of protein for 3 billion people around the world, and as consumers look to lower their meat consumption, many more are turning to fish and seafood as their alternative. According the United Nations panel on climate change, oceans have already absorbed over 90 percent of the excess heat trapped in the climate system.

The warming is causing significant changes in currents and sea levels, which affect the health of marine species, nearshore and deep ocean ecosystems, as well as weather systems across the globe, the firm said.

Any solution to climate change will need to address the acidification and overheating that the oceans have endured as the first victim of the world’s evolving climate catastrophe.

Nurx has $22.5 million in new money, a path to profitability, and new treatments for migraines on the way

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As the COVID-19 epidemic spread across the US earlier this year, Nurx, like most other digital providers of healthcare and prescription services saw a huge spike in demand.

Now, with $22.5 million in new financing and a surging annual run rate that could see the company hit $150 million in revenue, the company is emerging as the largest digital practice for women’s health.

“We saw this tremendous surge in need for our contraception and sensitive health services,” says Nurx chief executive Varsha Rao .

The growth hasn’t come without controversy. Only last year, a New York Times article pointed to corner cutting at the startup which boasts Chelsea Clinton as an investor and advisor.

Undeterred Rao said that the company has now seen tremendous acceleration in all areas of its business. It’s now providing care to over 300,000 patients on a monthly basis, boasts that $150 million run rate and new investors like Comcast Ventures, Trustbridge and Wittington Ventures — the investment arm of one of the largest pharmacy chains in Canada, Shoppers Drug Mart.

The new $22.5 million is an extension on the company’s previous $32 million round and will take the company to profitability by 2021, according to Rao.

And while birth control and contraception are still the largest areas of the company’s business, Nurx is growing its range of services, seeing adoption of its testing for sexually transmitted infections including HPV and herpes and a new treatment area for migraines.

That focus on sexual health and what the company calls sensitive health is different from trying to be a primary care provider says Rao. “Our real focus right now is on our core demographic who are women between the ages of twenty and forty and really focusing on their needs,” she says. “That’s why migraines make a lot of sense. It’s not exclusively hormone related, but it often is… One-in-four women experience migraines and they’re largely from hormonal changes… This is a condition we’re well positioned to address.”

Another way that Nurx differentiates itself from competitors like Hims and Ro, which provide women’s health and contraceptive prescriptions as well, is through its ability to take insurance. “It’s actually pretty challenging to build the system to actually offer insurance,” says Rao. “And yet, we don’t think you can be a true healthcare company if you don’t accept insurance.”

 

With former Misfit founder Sonny Vu at the helm, Arevo raises $25 million for its 3D printing tech

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Sonny Vu, the former founder and chief executive of the wearable technology company, Misfit, has had a busy summer since he was named the new chief executive of 3D printing technology company, Arevo.

Vu’s new startup brought on a new executive management team, launched a crowdfunding campaign for its 3D printed Superstrata bicycle and is now announcing the close of a $25 million financing round to support the growth of its business.

It’d be a lot for anyone to take on even if it didn’t happen in the middle of global pandemic. But Vu, a serial entrepreneur whose last business went head-to-head with Apple before it was acquired by Fossil for $260 million, doesn’t shy away from challenges.

Vu was first introduced to Arevo in 2019 and was initially going to come on as an advisor to the company. Since the acquisition of Misfit he had been investing from Alabaster, his personal investment vehicle. First introduced by Vinod Khosla, an investor in the business, Vu quickly moved from being an advisor to an executive at the helm of the business and an investor providing bridge financing until the company could close its latest round.

Vu had initially intended to start his own business, but was drawn to Arevo’s potential. “3D printing is about making things slowly and in small quantities. With Arevo’s technology you can make big things quite fast,” Vu said in an interview.

Several companies are attempting to take 3D printing into heavy industry and large scale manufacturing. Relativity raised $140 million in its most recent financing to make rockets using 3D printers, Velo3D is a supplier of 3D printers to SpaceX, and now Arevo has $34 million for its efforts to scale 3d printers. Of course all of these investments pale in comparison to the whopping $438 million that Desktop Metal has raised for its 3D printing tech.

“Arevo is a compelling opportunity for us as it combines our three main investment foci: consumer internet, enterprise, and smart tech. We see fantastic potential in this market, and have backed Sonny before at Misfit,” said Hans Tung, in a statement. “Arevo is led by an experienced team with solid technological foundation and 3D printing manufacturing know-how at scale – to offer breakthrough products at competitive prices.”

Arevo already has a successful proof of concept with its Superstrata bicycle and manufacturing facilities in Vietnam that are intended to prove that the company’s technology will work as expected.

“We’re making this bike to make a point that we can make complex shapes at a pretty large scale,” Vu said. Unlike other companies that sell their printers to manufacturers, Arevo intends to sell parts. That’s because the printers are a pretty hefty ticket for anyone to buy. At $1 million to $1.4 million, it’s a big ask for a company to acquire if it wants to start using 3D printing.

On top of that cost, Vu said candidly that the company’s Achilles heel was the post-manufacturing treatment process required to finish the pieces. And while Arevo already counts automotive and aerospace companies as customers (including Airbus, which previously invested in the business), Vu wants to bring this to consumers. “We’ve had tennis racquet companies, golf clubs, surfboards,” approach Arevo about using the company’s technology, Vu says.

“We can do about two frames per day per machine,” Vu says of the latest production rates. “And coming up with our next gen system we can do about six frames per day.”

The ascension of Vu to the chief executive position and the new capital infusion marks the latest chapter for Arevo which is on its third chief executive since it was founded. Two years ago, Jim Miller, a former Amazon and Google executive, was brought on board to take the reins at the company. Miller’s appointment coincided with a $12.5 million investment round led by Asahi Glass, with Sumitomo Corp., Leslie Ventures and Khosla Ventures participating. Miller was involved with collaborating with Studio West on the design of its Superstrata bike.

Now, Defy Partners and GGV Capital are joining to lead the company’s Series B round with participation from Khosla Ventures, Alabaster and others. Brian Shin, a scout with Defy Ventures is joining the board which now counts Bruce Armstrong, from Khosla Ventures, and Hemant Bheda, Arevo’s co-founder as directors (along with Vu).

“Arevo’s new platform enables fabrication of high strength, low weight carbon fiber parts, currently not possible with today’s standard techniques,” said Trae Vassallo, founding partner at Defy. “We are thrilled to be working with the team to help scale up this incredibly impactful technology.”

Atomwise’s machine learning-based drug discovery service raises $123 million

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With a slew of partnerships with large pharmaceutical companies under its belt and the successful spin out of at least one new company, Atomwise has already proved the value of its machine learning platform for discovering and commercializing potential small molecule therapies for a host of conditions.

Now the company has raised $123 million in new funding to accelerate its business.

“Scaling the technology and scaling the team and scaling what we’ve been doing with it,” says chief executive officer Abe Heifets when asked about what comes next for the eight year old business.

Atomwise has already signed contracts worth $5.5 billion with corporate partners that include Eli Lilly & Co., Bayer, Hansoh Pharmaceuticals, and Bridge Biotherapeutics. Smaller, earlier stage companies like StemoniX and SEngine Precision Medicine are also using Atomwise’s tech.

Now the company will look to capture more of the value of drug discovery for itself, looking to develop and commercialize its discoveries by taking over more of the development process and working with manufacturers at a later stage, according to Heifets.

Atomwise tipped its new strategy last year when it announced a partnership with Velocity Drug Development and a $14.5 million investment to create x-37, a spinoff that’s developing small molecule therapies for endodermal cancers, which include cancers of the liver, pancreas, colon, stomach, and bladder.

“We have something like 750 projects running today around the world,” says Heifets. “These comprise more than 600 unique targets and that’s with a vast range of partnerships.”

The power of Atomwise’s drug discovery platform is its ability to harness machine learning to structure new proteins that have never existed — and ensure that they’re able to reach precise target receptors to accomplish a desired task.

Here, the x-37 spinoff is especially illustrative. One line of research the company is conducting into molecules that can target the PIM3 protein receptor. If a drug can block PIM3, it can kill cancerous endodermal cells, according to Heifets. However, if the molecules bind to another, similar target, PIM1, the therapy can cause heart attacks and kill patients.

“This is a challenge and empirically was considered undruggable,” says Heifets. Atomwise’s company screened 11 billion potential molecules against the targets to come up with 500 potential therapies. They’re now working on refining the therapy to bring something to market.

And x-37 is only one of the companies that Atomwise has created to commercialize various new molecules. There’s also Atropos Therapeutics, Theia Biosciences and vAIrus.

Atomwise is far from the only company to think that the application of machine learning technologies to drug discovery is a winning combination. Menten.ai is a company that’s taken the new technology developments one step further and added quantum computing to the mix to come up with new drugs.

“The market opportunity we’re going after is four times the value of the entire pharma industry today,” said Heifets. “Here’s what that’s about. There’s 20,000 human genes and only 4% have ever been drugs. Another 16% have been evidenced. But the opportunity of drugging the undruggable is way bigger than the entire pharma industry.”

Unlocking that opportunity is going to take lots of capital. That’s why B Capital and Sanabil Investments combined to lead Atomwise’s Series B round. It’s also why companies like DCVC, BV, Tencent, Y Combinator, Dolby Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures and two, undisclosed, insurance companies have invested in the company’s latest round.

 with a goal to commercialize high potential candidates through the drug development process. The company plans to continue to expand its work with corporate partners, which currently include major players in the biopharma space including Eli Lilly and Company, Bayer, Hansoh Pharmaceuticals, and Bridge Biotherapeutics, as well as emerging biotechnology companies like StemoniX and SEngine Precision Medicine. Atomwise has signed approximately $5.5 billion in deal value with corporate partners to date.

To date, Atomwise has worked with 750 academic research collaborations addressing over 600 disease targets, to model and screen over 16 billion new molecules for virtual screening. These molecules have generated 17 pending patent applications and several peer-reviewed publications. There are 285 active drug discovery partnerships with researchers at top universities around the world, and recently announced 15 research collaborations with global universities to explore broad-spectrum therapies for COVID-19, targeting 15 unique and novel mechanisms of action.

“New technologies are enabling better and faster R&D for the life science industry,” said Raj Ganguly, co-Founder and Managing Partner at B Capital Group . “The advancements Atomwise has made with its computational drug discovery platform have effectively cut months or even years off of the R&D lifecycle. More importantly, however, they are solving biology problems previously believed to be unsolvable by researchers and delivering that capability to everyone from academics to big pharma. We’re excited to continue to partner with the Atomwise team on its mission to develop new, more effective therapies.”

For lead investor, B Capital, the Atomwise investment is part of a thesis around lowering the cost of care and improving outcomes.

“Companies like Atomwise that are improving the cost curve are in the same vein of bringing therapies to market faster and cheaper. Which means you can improve access and improve costs and address things like rare diseases,” said Adam Seabrook, a principal at B Capital focused on healthcare.

VenoStent has a new technology to improve outcomes for dialysis patients

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Timothy Bouré and his co-founder Geoffrey Lucks were both near broke when they moved to Dallas to join the first accelerator they entered after forming VenoStent, a company that aims to improve outcomes for dialysis patients.

Failed dialysis surgeries occur in roughly 55% to 65% of patients with end-stage renal disease, according to the company. Caring for these patients can cost the Medicare and Medicaid Services system roughly $2 billion per year — and Bouré and Lucks believed that they’d come up with a solution.

So after years developing the technology at the core of VenoStent’s business at Vanderbilt University, the two men relocated from Nashville to South Texas to make their business work.

Bouré had first started working on the technology at the heart of VenoStent’s offering as part of his dissertation in 2012. Lucks, a graduate student at the business school was introduced to the material scientist and became convinced that VenoStent was on the verge of having a huge impact for the medical community. Five years later, the two were in Dallas where they met the chief of vascular surgery at Houston Medicine and were off to the races.

A small seed round in 2018 kept the company going and a successful animal trial near the end of the year gave it the momentum it needed to push forward. Now, as it graduates from the latest Y Combinator cohort, the company is finally ready for prime time.

In the interim, a series of grants and its award of a Kidney XPrize kept the company in business.

The success was hard won, as Bouré spent nearly three sleepless nights in the J-Labs, Johnson and Johnson’s  medical technology and innovation accelerator in Houston, synthesizing polymers and printing the sleeve stents that the company makes to keep replace the risky and failure-prone surgeries for end stage kidney disease patients.

The key discovery that Bouré made was around a new type of polymer that can be used to support cell growth as it heals from the dialysis surgery.

In 2012, Bouré stumbled upon the polymer that would be the foundation for the work. Then, in 2014, he did the National Science Foundation Core program and started thinking about the wrap for blood vessels. Through a series of discussions with vascular surgeons he realized that the problem was especially acute for end stage renal disease patients.

Already the company has raised $2.4 million in grant funding and small equity infusions. and the KidneyX Prize from the Department of Health and Human Services and the American Society of Nephrology. VenoStent was one of six winners.

“It’s part of this whole ongoing effort by the executive office to improve dialysis,” said Bouré. “[They are] some of the most expensive patients to treat in the world… Basically the government is highly incentivized to find technologies that improve patient’s lives.”

Now the company is heading into its next round of animal testing and will seek to conduct its first human trials outside of the United States in 2021.

And while the company is focused on renal failure first, the materials that Bouré has developed have applications for other conditions as well. “This can be a material for the large intestine,” says Bouré. “It has tunability in terms of all its properties. And we can modify it for a particular application.”