Discovering Biotech Startups: A map for Selling to Ignite Biosciences


Written by:
David Wilkerson

We hope that you’re enjoying the new branch of our Sponsor Atlas series, which focuses on young pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies that are in early stages or stealth mode. In the second edition of Sponsor Atlas: Discovering Biotech Startups, we’re looking at Ignite Biosciences, exploring the current affairs and future orientation of this emerging Menlo Park - based stealth biotech company. 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 blog on BlueSphere Bio, be sure to check out the first edition here

Ignite Biosciences is a biotech startup that is looking to develop a platform using advanced computational techniques, cloud computing, AI technologies, and blood tests to detect cancer and potentially other health issues at a very early stage. 

Business Overview

Ignite Biosciences does not currently have an operating website for the public, so we had to do some digging of our own until Ignite decides to register for a public-facing website. Ignite’s principal place of business, as noted on the SEC Form D, is located at Menlo Park Labs, 1165 O’Brien Drive, Menlo Park, CA 94025, in addition to being listed as a resident with the University of California’s QB3 accelerator facility. They also have a satellite location based in Seattle, Washington. The Seattle address is listed in state corporation records, and based on recent investigations into the address, it was found to be mostly empty office space for now.

Ignite Biosciences splits its operations between the Bay Area and Seattle, and has been operating in stealth mode since 2016. The business was registered in Delaware as a C-Corp with a filing date on 12/1/2016, and it was incorporated on 1/19/2017, with a registered agent address through CT Corporation System in Seattle. Ignite raised a Series A round of $27.2M from Silicon Valley venture capital group Andreessen Horowitz, as well as other investors last year. The company has done a very good job of staying under the radar for so long, especially with that amount of funding and investor backing.

Outsourcing History

While the online information about their current outsourcing needs is scarce, the recent Series A funding means that Ignite Biosciences has a ton of money to work with for their outsourcing needs. The company is still very early in development, but with the rapid rise of demand for AI technologies that integrate with the life sciences, and with that amount of funding, we can expect to see a huge increase in Ignite’s outsourcing activities in the near future. They will be working through the usual developmental steps for new products, and 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, clinical outsourcing partners, and bioanalytical service providers should definitely have Ignite Biosciences on their radar for the next few years. 

Decision Making

  • Sujal Patel - CEO of Ignite Biosciences, is a successful technology entrepreneur and executive who founded the data storage company Isilon Systems in 2001, which sold to EMC Corporation (now Dell EMC) in 2010 for $2.25 billion. Patel’s degree from the University of Maryland is in Computer Science, and he holds nineteen patents in the areas of storage, networking, and media delivery, is a well-known speaker on entrepreneurship, and has received a variety of industry awards. [1]
  • Parag Mallick - Ignite’s co-founder, is a Stanford associate professor with tons of experience in organizing large amounts of biological data. His research mainly focuses on the early detection of cancer, and his lab at Stanford is pursuing areas such as cancer systems biology, multi-scale biomarker biology, and developing technologies to study proteins, with the main goal of identifying biomarkers that can be used to detect cancers at the earliest possible stage.
  • Vijay Pande - is a general partner at Ignite investor Andreessen Horowitz, as well as an adjunct professor of bioengineering at Stanford. He is also on the Ignite board but is best known for founding the publicly distributed computing disease research project known as Folding@home.
  • Farzad Nazem - former Yahoo CTO, is listed as a board director at Ignite in public documents. Farzad is widely known as a major investor in multiple biotech and precision medicine companies, as well as an advisor to a number of recent healthtech startups. 

Ignite’s Pipeline and R&D Focus

Even though Ignite Biosciences has been operating under the radar for years, they have filed three patent applications with the World Intellectual Property Organization. The first application lists Patel as the inventor and describes a data-driven method of uniquely identifying various proteins specifically based on their binding properties. The other two applications describe methods of analyzing proteins by targeting substances that bind to peptides, or small chains of amino acids. Since both peptides and proteins are frequently employed as drugs, their platform could eventually become a major source for finding novel biopharmaceuticals and building an entirely new product pipeline utilizing their data-driven technology. In addition, two of the applications list Jarrett Egertson, an expert in bioinformatics and biostatistics, as an inventor. The patent applications mainly focus on blood tests, with one describing a platform that could analyze blood samples with the goal of monitoring individual health and early detection of health issues.

Some of the ways business development teams can get their foot in the door at this early stage would be to provide support in the following areas: Bioanalytical method development and method validation, analytical testing and stability services, preclinical development including in vitro, in vivo and animal model development for their early studies, as well as bioprocessing R&D services that are heavily focused on proteomics in cancer research. If your teams are experienced in biotech-focused AI capabilities and big data analytics, this would be a huge plus for Ignite at this point in time. 

Innovation

Matt McIlwain, one of Ignite’s major funders from Madrona Venture Group, also where Patel is strategic director, invested in them with the goal of “bringing our deep expertise in cloud and applied machine learning as well as company building to help Sujal, Parag and their team change the world through breakthroughs in proteomics.” Ignite has applied for trademarks in which lists multiple potentially innovative products, goods and services through the business. Some of the specifics include: “a device for molecular analysis of proteins”; “cloud hosting provider services for storing, analyzing and sharing biological information”; and “computer software for data collection, management, and analysis of genetic information.” [2]

While it’s still difficult to determine what Ignite will have to offer, these clues along with the backgrounds of Patel and Mallick, suggest a data-driven platform that utilizes AI and blood tests to detect diseases at an early stage. Also known as liquid biopsies, these innovative tests are becoming an extremely popular area of biotech nowadays. Earlier this year, a biotech startup with ties to Johns Hopkins University raised $100 million for a system that uses blood tests to target cancer by performing proprietary DNA and protein measurements. And then there's the San Francisco-based company, Grail, a formidable rival to Ignite Biosciences, who raised over $1.5 billion to fund similar innovations, and includes financial backing from Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. 

We think Ignite Biosciences is on track to have some major innovations in the biotech industry, and it’s difficult to say exactly when they will come out of stealth mode, but we’re thinking it should be within the next year, 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 more stealth biotechs?

If you would like a simple solution for keeping an eye on drug sponsor companies, like Ignite Biosciences, 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 instalment 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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