Funding boost for tech that translates novel plant molecules into medicines

Enveda Biosciences’ $4.9 million seed round of funding will enable the company to grow its medicinal plant dataset, enhance its technologies and algorithms to accelerate natural product drug discovery and advance its lead asset for liver fibrosis through preclinical development.

The funding was led by True Ventures, with participation from Wireframe Ventures, Village Global and angel investor Chris Gibson (co-founder and CEO of Recursion).

Enveda’s platform includes a database of anthropological, chemical and biological data from medicinal plants. Leveraging this database of hundreds of thousands of unique chemicals and their links to biological signatures, Enveda’s machine learning algorithms predict new chemicals with the potential to treat complex diseases. These chemicals are then optimised in laboratory studies by Enveda’s team of biologists and medicinal chemists to deliver validated first-in-class drug candidates.

“Traditional synthetic chemical libraries used in drug discovery today scratch only a tiny fraction of bioactive chemical space,” said Viswa Colluru, Enveda’s founding CEO. “Enveda’s platform leverages 450 million years of evolutionary ingenuity to discover and develop an entirely new class of medicines.”

Natural products have yielded numerous landmark drugs including aspirin, metformin, morphine and quinine. They have also inspired more than 20%of the new drugs that have been approved since 1981. However, natural product drug discovery presents several challenges that have reduced industry interest, including the inability to identify and isolate novel bioactive molecules responsible for a desired effect.

“Nature provides us with so much inspiration that can be used for drug discovery, but until recently, studying molecules from the natural world was very difficult,” said Pieter Dorrestein, Enveda’s scientific co-founder. “We previously didn’t have the knowledge to efficiently identify the specific bioactive plant chemical from the thousands of other unknown chemicals that are present. We now have the tools to both rapidly identify and translate these molecules found in the natural world into successful medicines.”

Enveda’s platform uses advances in knowledge graphs, metabolomics and machine learning to identify novel bioactive molecules of interest. For example, the core technology behind Enveda’s platform, validated by multiple peer-reviewed publications, was able to identify the specific antiviral molecules in E Dendroides, a Mediterranean shrub used for thousands of years for the treatment of warts. Within hours, a problem that had plagued researchers for over a decade, was solved. By learning patterns of such bioactivity in molecules from thousands of plants, Enveda’s platform also identifies chemical modifications to create patentable drug candidates.

“We’re deeply interested in supporting founders who see nature as a key partner in unlocking insights for new therapeutics,” said Rohit Sharma, partner at True Ventures. “Viswa and his team are systematically evolving what we know about the medicinal value of plants and how they might help human health with their platform.”

So far, Enveda has validated three candidates, which target the liver fibrosis, inflammation and neurodegenerative markets. The company has multiple additional programs in the pipeline and will develop a focused portfolio of candidates while seeking strategic partners in other areas.

“In our early hit identification work at Enveda, we access the tremendous diversity that exists in natural products from plants, which are often attractive, drug-like small molecules—what we call good hits!” said Bryan Norman, Enveda’s vice president of drug discovery.

“This approach provides our medicinal chemists the opportunity to use the unique features found in these hits to optimise and discover new chemical entities that differ from those found using more traditional methods.”

Image credit: Francesco Gallarotti


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