Meliora Therapeutics, a biotech company pioneering a machine learning-driven platform to decipher oncology drugs’ true mechanisms of action, announced today the close of an $11M seed financing round led by HOF Capital and ZhenFund, with participation from Obvious Ventures, Village Global, BrightEdge (the impact investment arm of the American Cancer Society), Pebblebed (fund of Keith Adams, former Chief Architect at Slack), Axial, Olive Capital, and prominent individual investors Michael Polansky (co-founder of Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and ArsenalBio), Wes Sterman (founding investor for Gilead), and others.
Founded in September 2021, Meliora’s computational platform enables researchers to develop a precise understanding of a drug’s true mechanism of action (MOA) based on data and not guesswork. The company aims to improve the current success rate of oncology drugs in development by building the industry’s first atlas of drug mechanisms and their impact on cancer biology through the use of machine learning. The founding team includes David Li, CEO & Co-Founder, Jason Sheltzer, Ph.D., Scientific Co-Founder, and Joan Smith, Technical Co-Founder.
Out of all the areas of medicine, clinical trials in oncology have the absolute lowest success rate-3%. One reason for the high failure rate is that many cancer drugs in development have an incorrect characterization of their mechanism of action, according to a paper published by Meliora co-founder Jason Sheltzer, Ph.D., in Science Translational Medicine.
“Modern cancer drug development is often not mechanism driven, leading to clinical development failures down the line. Meliora is using a novel molecular fingerprint matching method to determine the true mechanism of action of precision cancer therapies,” said David Li, CEO & Co-Founder, of Meliora Therapeutics. “By using machine learning to connect MOA with specific therapeutic molecules, we will increase the overall probability of success. We’re thrilled to have the support of this top-tier investor syndicate, and the funds will be used to expand our team and accelerate the development of our proprietary computational platform.”
“We believe AI will bring revolutionary changes to the drug discovery industry and are impressed by Meliora’s approach to developing a mechanism fingerprint atlas. We are glad to have the opportunity to partner with the amazing team at Meliora,” said Anna Fang, CEO, and founding partner at ZhenFund.
“Meliora’s computational platform allows companies to identify the true mechanism of action in small molecule compounds, and uncover mischaracterized compounds in the process,” said Jason Sheltzer, Ph.D., Co-Founder, Meliora Therapeutics. “By expanding the therapeutic window of these molecules with known safety profiles, the Meliora team has built a flywheel of precision medicine oncology assets with a higher potential for clinical success by understanding how the drug really works.”
“We are excited about Meliora’s machine-learning-based approach to mechanism-driven drug discovery. We believe that their novel approach will be a game-changer in the oncology drug development space,” said Fady Yacoub, Co-Founder, Managing Partner at HOF Capital.
“With better knowledge of a drug’s unique mechanism, scientists can improve drug discovery and increase the success rate of precision therapies in oncology. Additionally, companies may also find new vulnerabilities in cancer cells to target or new ways to identify patients who are most likely to respond to a particular targeted therapy. We believe Meliora’s novel approach will be highly impactful in the oncology drug development space,” said Michael Polansky, co-founder of Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and ArsenalBio.
Alice Pomponio, Managing Director of BrightEdge, the impact investment arm of the American Cancer Society (ACS) said, “We celebrate the achievements of our ACS grantees and now, through BrightEdge, we are deepening our innovation acceleration capabilities that enable scientific founders like Dr. Jason Sheltzer to translate their research into emerging biotech companies that accelerate ACS’s mission to defeat cancer and advance health equity.”
The seed funding will be used to expand Meliora’s computational platform, which includes building a proprietary data moat and selecting mischaracterized scaffolds as strong starting points for its lead precision therapeutic programs. The company has already built a computational prototype that identifies the correct mechanism of action (MOA) for small molecule drugs and generated in-vitro wet lab data for dozens of compounds computationally identified as having an alternate mechanism of action, with many of these compounds generating strong potency against the in silico predicted target. The funding will also be used to expand the team, and operations, and build industry partnerships.