Discovering Biotech Startups: A map for Selling to Fountain Therapeutics


Written by:
David Wilkerson

We are going right along with the new branch of the Sponsor Atlas series, which focuses on young pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies that are in early stages or stealth mode. In the next edition of Sponsor Atlas: Discovering Biotech Startups, we’re looking at Fountain Therapeutics, exploring the current affairs and future orientation of this emerging San Francisco - based stealth biotech startup. To accomplish this, we will give a business overview of their current operations, summarize their outsourcing needs, map out their development goals and decision-makers, and highlight their current strategies for capturing innovation. If you haven’t already read our other blogs on new biotech startups, be sure to check them out here

Fountain Therapeutics is a stealth biotech startup that is using a deep learning-based platform for the discovery and development of novel therapeutics for aging-associated diseases. They’re building a multi-disciplinary team to combine cutting-edge research findings in aging biology with artificial intelligence tools to discover and develop novel therapies for aging-associated diseases and aging itself.

Business Overview

Fountain Therapeutics does not currently have any registered trademarks, but they do have a simple website, albeit the home page provides very little information about their current research and development pipeline. The company was established in Delaware as a C-Corp on 5/1/2018, and they are currently categorized as doing work under Commercial Biotechnical Research. Fountain’s principal place of business, as noted on their website, is located at 953 Indiana St., San Francisco, CA 94107, as well as being listed as a resident with the UCSF’s QB3-MBC BioLabs accelerator facility.    

The MBC Biolabs location at 953 Indiana St. (formerly QB3@953), established in 2013, features 24,000 sq. ft. of lab and office space in San Francisco's Dogpatch neighborhood, just a short walk from the UCSF Mission Bay Campus. MBC BioLabs provides spaces as small as a single bench to fully-equipped labs. Scientists can conduct experiments on their first day, cutting months and millions of dollars off the time and cost necessary to gather data. MBC BioLabs’s facilities in San Francisco and San Carlos are home to 60 energetic young companies. Since opening its doors four years ago, MBC BioLabs tenant companies have raised over $1.8B dollars.  

Fountain closed a Series A seed round on May 7, 2018, and announced the completion of $5M in seed financing, with the round being led by NFLS, JLABS, and MBC BioLabs. Estimates show that Fountain Therapeutics has an annual revenue of <$1M and employs a staff of approximately 8-10. At this point in time their actual revenues aren’t that huge, but considering their recent multi-million dollar seed of venture-backed capital, we are expecting to see a lot of business activities from them in the near future. 

Outsourcing History

Fountain Therapeutics is a Series A venture-backed company with operations within the JLABS incubator space located at the MBC BioLabs facility. JLABS provides a large amount of capital and working environment for emerging companies who are on the brink of scientific discoveries and creating breakthrough products for their industry. JLABS, an accelerator firm owned by Johnson & Johnson and headquartered in San Diego, California. Ever since JLABS debuted with its flagship location in San Diego in 2012, the incubator division of Johnson & Johnson has supported dozens of early startup biotech companies that are innovating across four strategic areas of interest: consumer products, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and digital health.  

The information on the outsourcing needs of Fountain Therapeutics is few and far between, but their recent Series A funding is a good sign they have a lot of capital to play around with for R&D, drug discovery, and even outsourcing early preclinical work. Fountain Therapeutics will be working through the usual steps for a while before reaching the IND stage with potential products. So far the company has done a very good job of staying under the radar, especially with their large amount of funding and investor backing. Fountain Therapeutics will use the seed money to further their research in the field of stem cell research and development of therapeutics for age-related diseases. Even though the company is at a very early stage, we can definitely expect to see an increased need for outsourcing activities in the near future.  

We think business development teams in the realms of large molecule CMOs, biotech-focused AI and machine learning services, big data analytics companies, preclinical CROs and bioanalytical service providers with experience in FACS and stem cell research should definitely have them on their radar for the next few years.  

Fountain Therapeutics’s Pipeline and R&D Focus

Fountain Therapeutics’s main focus is discovering and developing novel treatments for a variety of aging-associated diseases. Their team has built a transformative model of aging that re-creates many of the complex hallmark features of aging, but only for in vitro models so far. They are combining their robust cellular model with the latest in artificial intelligence and computer vision to develop a disruptive unbiased platform for the identification of novel targets and potential therapeutics, and working toward an overall vision of a future in which they extend healthy lifespan and slow aging itself. Their research will offer opportunities to fight against and reverse aging and the diseases it brings, driven by a cross-functional team of biologists, machine learning engineers and bioanalytical researchers with experience in stem cell technologies.   

Fountain Therapeutics’s president, Dr. Thomas Rando, has a long history of academic success with stem cell research and regenerative medicine technology. His research on aging has demonstrated that it is possible to identify biochemical stimuli that can induce stem cells in old tissues to repair injuries as effectively as in young tissues, and this work has broad implications for the fields of regenerative medicine and stem cell transplantation. Some of his studies at the Rando Lab at Stanford University have been exploring both in vivo and in vitro approaches to understanding the underlying basis of changes in stem cell functionality with age, and specifically the decline in tissue regenerative capacity with age. Their current work, based on findings in the Rando Lab, are that the decline in stem cell functionality with age is primarily due to the aged environment in which stem cells reside and not due to irreversible, intrinsic aging of the stem cells themselves. Whatever intrinsic changes are detected in resting or early activated stem cells may largely be reversible, epigenetic changes. These studies of aging in the muscle stem cell compartment have shown that a key activator of satellite cells, the Notch ligand Delta-like-1, fails to be induced in aged muscle as compared to young muscle, in response to injury. Current studies include analysis of the regulatory mechanisms of Delta expression and age-related epigenetic changes that may  alter gene expression patterns, and eventually how this research further analyzed and translated into a regenerative medicine that could be developed at Fountain Therapeutics. [1]     

Besides these academic studies, there isn't much information about Fountain Therapeutics’s actual research and product pipeline, but some of the ways business development teams could initially connect would be from providing support in bioanalytical method development and method validation, stem cell research similar to the analyses above, or specific experience with FACS purifying and culturing primary cells from mouse and human tissue and preparing them for imaging analysis would all be huge benefits for Fountain Therapeutics at this time.

Decision Making

  • Dr. Thomas Rando - President & Board Member of Fountain Therapeutics is Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford where he is the Director of the Glenn Laboratories for the Biology of Aging. He is also Chief of Neurology and Director of the Rehabilitation Research & Development Center of Excellence at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System. He is a founding director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association clinic at the Stanford Medical Center. Research in the Rando laboratory  focuses on tissue-specific stem cells in aging and disease, and on pathogenetic mechanisms and gene therapy for muscular dystrophies. He received a BA from Harvard College, M.D. from Harvard Medical School and Ph.D. in Cell and Developmental Biology from Harvard University. [2]
  • Dr. John Dimos - CEO at Fountain Therapeutics is a scientist, entrepreneurial investor and business operator. His research studies have been cited by nearly 5,000 publications, and his work with stem cells was featured on the cover of Time Magazine. He was one of the first employees of iPierian, a drug discovery startup that was acquired for $725M; iPierian subsequently spun out True North Therapeutics, which was acquired for an additional $825M. John helped launch Mavericks Capital, an investment bank for early-stage life science companies developing new products in biotech, biopharma, medical devices and digital health; he then led US operations for a revenue-generating company using DNA sequencing and machine learning to predict disease risk and develop mitigation strategies in agriculture. John later became responsible for pipeline and portfolio diligence at the investment platform Propel(x), and remains a member of the investment committee at the Newton Fund. John completed a Fellowship at Harvard and holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University and B.S. from Tufts University. [3]  

Innovation

The stem cell theory of aging postulates that the aging process is the result of the inability of various types of stem cells to continue to replenish the tissues of an organism with functional differentiated cells capable of maintaining the organ tissue’s original function. Through an innovative platform in stem cell technology, Fountain Therapeutics will be developing novel therapeutics for multiple types of age-related diseases, many of which currently have no known cure. A long-term goal for Fountain Therapeutics is to extend the healthy years of life through researching the functions of biological mechanisms that govern human aging and its related physiological decline, with the objective of translating research into regenerative medicine that will extend the lifespan for millions of people.

On the topic of aging and stem cell functionality, Dr. Rando said, “Our lab has used both in vivo and in vitro approaches to explore the underlying basis of changes in stem cell functionality with age, specifically to understand (and perhaps ameliorate) the decline in tissue regenerative capacity with age.”     

We believe that they will do very well in their early-stage developments, and it’s just a matter of time before Fountain Therapeutics starts pumping out new proof-of-concept packages, pilot studies, and clinical trial materials for further research. It’s also difficult to say exactly when they will come out of stealth mode though, but we’re thinking it should be within the next few years, so be sure to keep them on your schedule and look out for our next edition in this series coming soon.

How can I find new biotech startups?

If you would like a simple solution for keeping an eye on drug sponsor companies, like Fountain Therapeutics, without relying on a database and generic lists of leads each week, we at Zymewire are here to help. Reach out today, and stay tuned for the next installment of the Sponsor Atlas: Discovering New Biotechs. If you enjoy these articles, please feel free to give them a share through the social links below!    


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