In Startup50 2016: Mitra Biotech won the award last year for its proprietary technology, CANScript, which offers more accurate and personalized cancer care. Over the year, Mitra has made this tech more robust; it can dramatically speed oncology drug discovery and development by matching compounds to their indications of highest impact.
Founders: Dr. Mallik Sundaram, Dr. Pradip Majumder and Dr. Shiladitya Sengupta,
A big challenge faced in cancer drug development is the low success rate of taking the drug from phase one to the market approval stage. This is predominantly due to the manner in which clinical trials are done. These drugs work on a very specific population, but we don’t know how to identify them.
The company simplifies this through its flagship technology, CANScript, which is a multi dimensional platform that determines the most optimal drug combination for a cancer patient by culturing patient’s own tumour tissue in a setting that resembles the human tumour microenvironment. The platform is personalized to the patient, the type and subtype of tumour and to the type of drug that would be tested.
So far, it has developed this model for various solid cancers (that form discrete tumour mass) including breast cancer, colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, head and neck cancer, gastric cancer, cervical cancer and more.
Bringing in the money
Predominantly an IP driven company, Mitra’s focus is to grow the market and continue to invest in R&D and commercialise its technology. To aid this, in August 2016, it recently raised a Series-B of US $27.4 million, led by Sequoia Capital and Sands Capital Ventures, with participation from Boston-based RA Capital Management and existing investors Accel Partners and Tata Capital Innovations Fund. With this round, its total investments go to US $34.51 million across three rounds.
The modus operandi
While Mitra’s initial plan was to develop a hub and spoke model, by setting up centres in Bengaluru, Mysore, Ahmedabad and New Delhi, it later made it a more centralised model, with key R&D hubs setup in Bengaluru and Boston. It is likely to set it up a third centre in one of the European countries, with the focus more on leveraging technology to strengthen its logistical support (for example, to receive tumour samples in the right containers). Mitra now has two models; a diagnostic model where it does fictitious drug testing and a co-developmental model where it works with global pharmas on clinical trials.
US $27.4 million,
(In August 2016, raised a Series-B)
US $34.51 million
(Total investment across three rounds)