The San Francisco-based company, co-founded by Foresite Labs, specializes in precision medicine—more specifically, a relatively new science that analyzes cells, their divisions over time, and mutations that can occur when those human cells divide. The startup’s work focuses on those mutations and cells known as “clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential,” or CHIP, that are indicators of diseases like cancer.
“For years, we have known this fundamental biology will change the way we treat age-related diseases, but not until TenSixteen has a company been positioned to operationalize that vision,” Vikram Bajaj, CEO of Foresite Labs and managing director of Foresite Capital said in a statement.
The science behind CHIP has emerged in the past decade, but despite how new the field is, co-founder and CEO Dr. Mark Chao told Crunchbase News that it is sound.
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Chao is a physician and former co-founder of Forty Seven, an immuno-oncology company that Gilead Sciences acquired for nearly $5 billion. He also previously served as the vice president of oncology at Gilead Sciences and as a clinical instructor at Stanford University.
“As a hematologist, I’ve unfortunately had the privilege to see a lot of patients with aggressive blood cancers, and there have been several where … they’re being referred, they’ve already had a few treatments, and by then, their cancer is completely mutated, so our success of really changing their disease is quite low,” he said. “What if we could treat the disease when it’s a lot more simple? What if we could, even better, eliminate those cells that were going to cause the disease and prevent it from happening in the first place?”
To that end, he expects that one day tests for CHIP cells could become standard practice in medicine because they would allow hospitals to catch markers for hard-to-treat diseases early and help doctors tailor treatment to patients.
“One of the themes that you’re seeing across the health care field is the ability to treat earlier, right,” Chao said. “There’s very few times where you have biology this transformational that can really do that across many diseases. We look at CHIP as one of the broad biomarkers as a tool to be able to treat early.”
The startup is named for the approximate number of times human cells divide in a lifetime—an enormous number that equates to roughly 1016 times—that each offer an opportunity for mutation.
TenSixteen’s ultimate goal is to develop new therapeutics that could help treat the ailments that CHIP testing can identify. It’s still early days for the startup, as it continues to gather data and work on growing its team from about 10 full-time employees to more than 30 in the coming year with its new funding, Chao said.
He hopes the company will have multiple treatments in clinical trials, or be approved for use in oncology and heart disease patients in the next five years.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias
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