Volastra’s Happy New Year continues with Microsoft deal and extended seed funding
CEO Charles Hugh-Jones (Volastra)
Oncology startup Volastra Therapeutics has a busy morning. The New York-based company signed an agreement with Microsoft to develop unique digital pathology tools for oncology and also announced its the start-up funding cycle has been extended from $ 12 million to $ 44 million.
The additional funds will support the continued development of Volastra’s technology platform, which harnesses unique chromosome instability (CIN) information to rapidly identify and validate new targets to block metastasis. Pfizer veteran Charles Hugh-Jones, CEO of Volastra, said the funding puts the company in a position of strength that will allow it to advance its “bold vision to change the treatment paradigm for patients with metastatic cancer. “.
Volastra noted that more than 350,000 people in the United States alone are diagnosed with metastatic cancer. Of these patients, less than a third respond to targeted therapies or immunotherapies, making metastasis one of the most pressing unresolved challenges in cancer.
The company uses a large library of organoids developed from metastatic cancer samples to understand tumor spread and develop therapeutic strategies to target chromosomal instability during the metastasis process. This platform allows Volastra to perform rigorous target validation, advance top-notch clinical candidates and identify biomarkers to stratify patients for clinical trials, according to the company.
The expansion of the seed funding was supported by new investors Vida Ventures and Catalio Capital Management. They joined with other investors including Polaris Partners, Droia Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners and Quark Venture.
“The support of our new and existing investors reflects the growing interest in CIN as a critical driver of cancer biology,” Hugh-Jones, who joined New York-based Volastra as CEO last year after serving as chief medical officer at Allergan, said in a statement.
CIN was identified by the scientific founders of Volastra as a key factor in metastatic cancer. The company is developing proprietary computational and experimental approaches to understand the biology of CINs and foster drug discovery. Among Volastra’s tools is a proprietary technology suite to measure and exploit vulnerabilities in chromosomally unstable cancer cells, according to the company.
Since its launch last year, Volastra has not only been busy developing its technology, but also forging relationships with other companies that can help advance oncology research.
Last month, the company announced a Partnership with Dewpoint Therapeutics to discover new molecules capable of blocking immunosuppressive signaling in high CIN tumors. In CIN-rich cells, chronic pro-inflammatory signaling may suppress the intrinsic immune response, promote resistance and progression of treatment, and lead to metastasis, the companies said in a joint statement. The Volastra-Dewpoint collaboration is focused on selectively blocking the formation of a condensate in which this signaling occurs.
This morning the partnership with Microsoft was announced. Volastra will leverage Microsoft’s Big Data capabilities and develop algorithms that identify markers correlating with tumor metastatic behaviors. Volastra said the collaboration will develop automated machine learning tools capable of quickly and accurately integrating information across multiple datasets, including pathology slides and three-dimensional organoids derived from tumors.
Desney Tan, chief executive of Microsoft Health Futures, said advanced calculations offer “huge promise” in medical diagnostics and drug discovery.
“The collaboration with Volastra will lead to potential advances in the development of therapies to prevent and treat cancer metastases,” Tan said. “We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Volastra to provide solutions to the computational life science community.”