Space - The Future is Here
It is November 26, 2018, and humankind has just landed the InSight probe on Mars, where it will study the planet’s interior. The landing site – a flat, relatively rock-free area in the western portion of Elysium Planitia – was chosen with pinpoint accuracy, and is centered at 4.5°N 135.9°E. No trial and error here.
This is technology at its best.
Medicine - The Future is (Almost?) Here
Meanwhile, back on Earth, humankind is still struggling to develop a technology that can reliably deliver a drug treatment to a specific location in the body with the same pinpoint accuracy. In other words, providing a deterministic way to engineer the efficacy/safety balance, rather than resorting to old-school methods of trial and error. There is no doubt that someone needs to introduce a disruptive mindset and flip the current pharmaceutical R&D paradigm on its head.
Bionaut Agent is the Future
That someone is us. We named our company “Bionaut” to evoke the image of an astronaut moving within a biological environment (much like space). Then, we made this concept a reality, thanks to the groundbreaking Microbot innovation, which is able to carry any clinical payload (large or small molecule) to any point in the body and release it at will.
Ambitious? Maybe, but our vision is a direct solution to colossal healthcare needs that exist right here and now:
Roughly 50% of all clinical conditions currently being treated today are associated with a specific location in the body (i.e., not systemic).
Existing “precision medicine” treatments are unable to actively move to specific, localized targets in the human body. This means that treatments with good on-target efficacy often demonstrate poor off-target safety.
“Trial and error” based optimization of safety vs. efficacy makes pharmaceutical R&D expensive and inefficient, leaving ~90% of treatment candidates to fall by the wayside during the FDA approval process.
For example, one may consider designing a chemotherapy drug wrapped in a layer that preferentially binds to specific cancer cells. The hope in this case would be that the chemotherapy drug will exclusively target cancer cells, and avoid healthy tissue. Unfortunately, evidence shows that this approach is often subpar, as the drug still has to rely on blood flow or diffusion in tissue to reach its target. This lack of precision means that the concentration of drug that actually reaches the target cannot be reliably predicted, and clearance from the body presents a significant challenge. Furthermore, due to the statistical nature of the delivery (via blood flow or diffusion), the drug may accumulate in areas where it is not needed, or completely miss its intended target.
Dr. Hemmati is an ophthalmology expert, presently serving as Adjunct Assistant Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at USC. Previously, Dr. Hemmati served as Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Vermont and was a clinical consultant to multiple investment groups, including Access Industries, BCG, DFJ, and many more. Dr. Hemmati has co-founded several bio-pharmaceutical ventures, and also served as Director, Clinical Development at Allergan, as Clinical Scientist on several Phase 1, 2, and 3 studies. In his scientific career, Dr. Hemmati has co-discovered fetal blood-forming stem cells with Dr. Irv Weissman at Stanford, discovered cancer stem cells in the brain at Caltech, and invented a hydrogel for sustained-release topical drug delivery to the eye with Dr. Robert Langer at MIT. Dr. Hemmati has received numerous awards and honors including The Alcon Research Scholar Award, and the Everhart Presidential Distinguished Lectureship from Caltech.
Bionaut in 3 Questions
What is Bionaut?
A Bionaut agent that can be precisely guided to an exact location inside the human body.
How does it work?
An advanced remote control and imaging system precisely guides the Bionaut to its target, tracks its progress, and triggers the payload release at exactly the right place and time.
A delivery and retraction system introduces the Bionaut to the body and then removes it in a safe, convenient manner.
What about IP? All system components are fully IP protected.
What is the value proposition?
Enabling existing and future biochemical solutions for precision medicine.
Reviving potent drug candidates that were previously discarded due to insufficient localization.
Improving the efficacy/safety balance for existing treatments, offering them extended lifetime under patent.
Let’s get specific
The Bionaut breakthrough is a unique locomotion method. The agents move at high speeds (up to 60 cm/hr), and the agent size range permits them to carry both small and large molecules. Bionaut has clearly demonstrated the platform’s technical capabilities, as well as its safety in live animals
Bionaut’s technology is being developed in close collaboration with the Max Planck Institute in Germany, with multiple patents protecting the components of the robotic platform. The company has already demonstrated the ability to safely navigate, control, and track the BionautsTM in vivo.
Bionaut was founded in 2016 and is currently headquartered in Los Angeles, CA. Its primary backers are Upfront Ventures, BOLD Capital Partners (Singularity University) and Compound VC.