Silicon Valley Vets Aim to Shake Up Preclinical Testing With Vium

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Cancer drugs have cured countless mice, only to fall short in people. It’s a well-known problem with drug development: Preclinical tests done on animals can be inaccurate, and that drives up the cost and time it takes to make a successful therapeutic.

Several startups are developing technologies to improve preclinical testing—microchips that act like human organs, for instance, are a popular approach. A startup called Vium has a different idea, what it calls a “living informatics” approach that combines big data techniques with sensor technologies to try to boost the speed, efficiency, and success rate of animal tests themselves.

Vium has been operating stealthily under the name “Mousera” for about three years, but this morning made its first announcement including details about the technology it’s developed. The San Mateo, CA-based startup has already attracted $33 million in venture financing so far from Lux Capital, Data Collective, Dolby Family Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. It’s also got some high-profile advisors and board members, including Harvard Medical School geneticist David Sinclair and former Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler (a Lux partner). Vium CEO Timothy Robertson is a former executive from Redwood City, CA, digital medicine company Proteus Digital Health; co-founder Joe Betts-Lacroix (Vium’s chief technology officer) helped form handheld computer developer OQO.

The company gave just a few tidbits about its approach when operating as Mousera. In this report from MedCity News, for instance, Robertson said the company’s goal was to make preclinical testing more efficient by industrializing certain processes that are manual.

“This is an enormously lucrative space that is completely underserved by technology,” Robertson told me today. “That’s why we’ve been in stealth, we wanted to maintain our first mover advantage.”

In its announcement today, Vium says it’s “applying life sciences, digital technology, and large-scale interpretive methods to living systems” to have researchers “make better informed decisions” more quickly than with existing methods. The approach consists of two key pieces. One is what the company calls a “Digital Vivarium,” a facility in which rodent cages are equipped with sensors, high-definition cameras, and other technology to accumulate all sorts of digital data on the animals. That information is then … Next Page »

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