SG-based Engine Biosciences raises $43m Series A led by Polaris Partners

Jeffrey Lu, Co-Founder and CEO, Engine Biosciences.

Singapore and Silicon Valley-based biotech firm Engine Biosciences on Wednesday announced it has raised $43 million (S$57 million) in a Series A round led by US-based healthcare and technology investor Polaris Partners.

The round was joined by private equity firm Invus and an undisclosed institutional investor based in Singapore, the firm said in a statement.

Existing investors that participated in the financing include 6 Dimensions Capital, WuXi AppTec, DHVC, EDBI, Baidu Ventures, Vectr Ventures, Goodman Capital, WI Harper, and Nest.Bio.

Engine Biosciences was co-founded in 2015 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professors Timothy Lu and James J Collins, University of California San Diego associate professor Prashant Mali, Mayo Clinic associate professor Hu Li, and entrepreneur Jeffrey Lu.

Its platform uses machine learning and data science to analyse how genes interact in cells and use the data to discover new drugs that can combat diseases like cancer.

“We are honored that this preeminent group of life science and technology investors has recognized the progress our team has made and is supporting our mission to unleash new medicines by deciphering biology,” said Lu, who is the startup’s chief executive officer.

The fresh funds will be used to expand its line of oncology therapeutics, prepare for its first clinical programs, and scale its platform.

Amy Schulman, a managing partner at Polaris Partners, will join the company’s board of directors.

“The past year has reinforced the importance of rapid innovation and adaptation,” said Schulman. “Engine’s distinct combination of biology, technology, and drug discovery, as well as its global perspective, may well enable the company to be particularly capable of realising the promise of artificial intelligence in drug discovery and tackling a wide variety of diseases.”

Engine claims that its pipeline of therapies has “shown promise” in treating liver, ovarian, colorectal, and breast cancers, and could be applicable in other disease areas in the future.

“Considering the field’s tremendous needs for the right drug targets for the right patients and Engine’s unique capabilities in finding those, we continue to be excited by Engine’s potential to power new medicines,” said Leon Chen, the chief executive officer and founding partner of 6 Dimensions Capital.

The firm had last disclosed raising $10 million (S$13 million) in seed funding in 2018.

Other startups in Singapore developing cancer treatments include AUM Biosciences and Immunoscape. The latter raised $14 million in April.

A PricewaterhouseCooper (PWC) report published earlier this year said that in the US, deals in the life sciences space, including biotech, are poised to rebound this year to $250-275 billion. In comparison, 2020 registered $184 billion in life sciences deals.

“Innovation and the need for scale will drive activity due to pandemic headwinds and the uncertainty of regulatory, tax and drug pricing policies,” the report said.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.