Princeton spin-out ArrePath gets $20 million to combine AI and imaging in antibiotic R&D

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Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem, and it’s a problem that big pharma has largely abandoned. Some startups are filling the void, and a new one, ArrePath, is coming up with new molecules with a different approach that could overcome drug resistance challenges. The young company was born with $20 million in seed funding.

ArrePath was founded by Zemer Gitai, a professor of biology at Princeton University, where his research focuses on the cell biology of bacteria. This research includes the application of quantitative tools to antibiotic discovery. Gitai and colleagues have identified a single compound that has two mechanisms of action that together provide anti-infective activity against Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria. Equally important, the compound provides this antibiotic activity without leading to drug resistance. The research has been published in the journal Cell in 2020. According to the article, the compound outperformed combination treatments in killing methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). In addition, a derivative of this molecule has shown efficacy against gonorrhea in a mouse model.

“This promising antibiotic lead suggests that the combination of different [mechanisms of action] on a single chemical scaffold may be an underestimated approach to targeting difficult bacterial pathogens,” the scientists wrote.

ArrePath was founded late last year and is currently based at Princeton Innovation Center Biolabs, the university’s coworking lab and office space for tech startups. The company says it has discovered new antibiotic compounds by performing “bacterial autopsies” in which the behavior of bacteria is decoded when exposed to new molecules. This approach reveals the biological mechanisms of action of potential drugs. The company uses artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, combined with imaging technologies, to rapidly identify, optimize and develop its new classes of anti-infective candidates. The company claims that these molecules have differentiated mechanisms of action compared to products already available.

In addition to the new funding, ArrePath announced the appointment of Lloyd Payne as CEO of the startup. Payne most recently worked for German biotech company Evotec, where he was executive vice president, head of anti-infectives. Prior to that, he was the founder and CEO of Euprotec, an anti-infective drug discovery and development biotech that was acquired by Evotec in 2014. In a prepared statement, Payne said the funding enables ArrePath to make progress its lead compounds and expand the startup. discovery efforts. The company will also improve its imaging platform and the application of machine learning in its drug research.

Seed funding was co-led by Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund, Insight Partners and Innospark Ventures. Other participants included Viva BioInnovator, Arimed Capital, PTX Capital and Nor’easter Ventures.

Image by Flickr user NIAID through a Creative Commons Licence

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