COVID-19 Startups Venture

OneThree Biotech Raises Seed Round For AI-Driven Drug Platform

Drug development is a famously slow process. One key reason is that even if researchers find a therapy effective in treating an illness, they must still complete extensive tests to rule out harmful side effects

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OneThree Biotech is hoping to speed up the timeline for drug developers. The New York-based startup is building an artificial intelligence platform for use in drug discovery and development that aims to identify promising targets as well as potential risks and side effects at an early stage.

As researchers pour resources into finding drugs to treat COVID-19, the company has started offering free toxicity screening on potential treatments for the virus. The 2-year-old company also announced it has closed a $2.5 million seed round, with Primary Venture Partners and Meridian Street Capital as lead investors.

Co-founder and CEO Neel Madhukar told Crunchbase News a central goal is to provide an AI-driven tool that not only helps developers identify potential risk factors early, but also offers insights into the underlying biology driving the efficacy of a particular treatment.

“Our tools try to figure out what’s going on with the drug,” Madhukar said. “Why are patients responding the way they do?” That’s particularly relevant for researchers who see a particular treatment may produce a desired response, but they may not know why.

In practice, the AI-driven approach can produce some unexpected results. Madhukar points to prior work with cancer drug developer Oncoceutics in which OneThree Biotech helped identify a type of cancer not previously on researchers’ radar as a strong potential candidate for a treatment. Trials to date have been promising, he said.

The company was first started in 2018 and is a graduate of Cornell Tech’s Runway Startup program.

The seed funding will be used to build out the platform’s back-end infrastructure and to pursue partnerships with biotech and pharma researchers.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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