Drug discovery and development is an expensive and risky endeavor, with ~90% of drugs failing in clinical development. The conventional approach has been to reduce complex disease states to a single known protein target and utilize in vitro models to screen for drugs that modulate it. While in vivo experiments reflect disease state complexity and are the long-standing gold standard in preclinical research for target biology discovery and drug screening, the lack of scalability makes in vivo research prohibitive.
Vevo Therapeutics' founding team–CEO Nima Alidoust, CSO Johnny Yu, Hani Goodarzi and Kevan Shokat–created an end-to-end in vivo platform that enables preclinical research at-scale by harnessing AI, cell-line and patient-derived xenograft models and single cell techniques. While the platform is broadly applicable, Vevo’s initial focus is on discovering and developing novel medicines for cancer, in particular for targets within and downstream from the RAS network, such as KRAS, an important oncogenic pathway for which Dr. Shokat discovered the first inhibitor.
Today, at General Catalyst we are excited to announce that we are co-leading Vevo Therapeutics’ $12.25M seed funding round. Vevo’s mission to find better targets and drugs that treat more patients has the potential to improve health outcomes and is strongly aligned with our Health Assurance thesis.
Target discovery and drug discovery depend on robust in vivo validation, which in today’s in vitro-reliant discovery landscape is the last step. Vevo Therapeutics is working to build an Atlas of scaled in vivo data to reverse the process of drug discovery so that this most essential step of preclinical discovery is not last—but first.
Vevo’s technology allows for pooling cells from hundreds of diverse patients in one 3D tumor model so that disease state complexity is represented. These cells are then implanted into an in vivo model. In one experiment, Vevo’s platform can assess drug-induced changes in gene expression at a single-cell resolution across that patient population. Key metrics measuring drug efficacy, mechanism of action, and mechanism of tolerance will be collected and the Atlas will hold hundreds of thousands of in vivo generated data points from these studies. The Atlas data will then be used to train an AI discovery engine that efficiently screens millions of compounds in silico to predict in vivo drug action. Iteratively, the promising targets and drug-like compounds will be validated within in vivo contexts using Vevo’s platform.
We believe the future of scalable drug discovery is here. The compilation of the world’s largest Atlas of in vivo data has the potential to reduce the false discovery rate and to increase the probability that therapeutics candidates advanced into the clinic are effective for diverse patient populations. With this funding, Vevo Therapeutics will further build the team, build the in vivo Atlas, and optimize its platform. General Catalyst is grateful to be on this journey with Vevo Therapeutics to propel the discovery of effective therapeutics and meet the needs of patients affected by cancer and other hard-to-treat diseases.