Among the life science companies developing new approaches to disease today are those that will shape the healthcare of tomorrow. Earlier this month, Xconomy offered a select audience a peek at some of them making advances in the Bay Area.
Three companies aiming to transform healthcare took to the stage at UCSF Mission Bay on Dec. 6 for San Francisco Biotech: The Next Generation. First up was RDMD, a San Francisco startup that is bringing a high-tech approach to the search for new treatments for rare diseases. CEO and co-founder Nancy Yu explained how a Silicon Valley hackathon led to the formation of her company, which is building a repository of patient health data. The company says this information can be used to develop diagnostics and design clinical trials.
The second company, Cortexyme, is taking a novel approach to neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s. While many of the attempts to treat Alzheimer’s have targeted the buildup of beta amyloid, a protein that forms plaques in the brains of patients, Cortexyme is focused on pathogenic bacteria that the company says damages neurons. These bacteria can’t be treated with conventional antibiotics, said Casey Lynch, CEO and co-founder of the South San Francisco startup. Lynch discussed her company’s work developing a small molecule drug intended to target these bacteria and stop progression of neurodegeneration. Cortexyme’s lead drug is in early-stage clinical testing.
The third company, Allogene Therapeutics, is developing a different type of cancer immunotherapy. While cell therapies developed from a patient’s own immune cells offer a personalized approach to treating cancer, these treatments are expensive and don’t work for everyone. David Chang, Allogene’s CEO and co-founder, along with chief technical officer Alison Moore, explained how the South San Francisco company’s experimental approach develops treatments from the immune cells of donors. These “off-the-shelf” therapies could be easier to produce and less expensive than fashioning a treatment for each patient from his or her own immune cells. Allogene raised $300 million in financing when it launched in the spring. In October, the company raised $324 million more in its IPO—one of the biggest IPOs of 2018. The company’s lead therapeutic candidate is in early-stage clinical testing.
Photos from San Francisco Biotech: The Next Generation are courtesy of Gozde Efe. We’d like to thank the sponsors that made the event possible, including our host, QB3; platinum sponsor Fish & Richardson; and gold sponsors Goodwin and Synthego. Synthego was also the reception sponsor. And last but not least, thank you to the members of audience.