Pear Bio, a techbio startup dedicated to enhancing the effectiveness of cancer drug treatments, has successfully raised $14 million in a Series A funding round led by Octopus Ventures. Hoxton Ventures, Crista Galli Ventures, SOSV, Fly Ventures, and Compound Ventures also participated in the funding round.
The company is among several European techbio startups that have recently attracted investments to revolutionize drug and treatment discovery, with a particular focus on oncology.
Notably, nearly 30% of the $5.2 billion invested in European techbio startups in 2022 was allocated to oncology-focused companies.
Pear Bio’s core approach involves breaking down tumor cells into micro-tumors consisting of 10,000 cells each. These micro-tumors are then utilized to assess the effectiveness of various cancer treatments and immunotherapies. The results obtained from these tests are combined with clinical data to develop predictive models that offer insights into how a specific patient is likely to respond to treatment.
The company employs computer vision software to visualize the impact of treatments on the tumors. Founder Duleek Ranatunga highlights Pear Bio’s distinctive aspect lies in its inclusion of immune cells from the blood surrounding the tumors during testing. By considering these additional cells, Pear Bio can evaluate how treatments affect both the tumor itself and the patient’s immune response.
To date, Pear Bio has collaborated with pharmaceutical companies to conduct tests on cells from 220 patients involved in research and clinical studies. These tests have enabled the comparison of treatment outcomes predicted by Pear Bio’s model with the actual patient response, effectively demonstrating the accuracy of the platform.
The remaining tumor cells following treatments are used for the startup’s drug discovery efforts, facilitating the study of non-responsive cells to identify the reasons behind their lack of response. Presently, the company is primarily focused on certain types of rare breast cancer and kidney cancer.
The need for Pear Bio’s approach arises from the complexity of cancer treatments, particularly when combined therapies are employed, such as using drugs and immunotherapy together. Achieving accurate replication of real-world conditions for testing treatment efficacy proves challenging due to this complexity.
Pear Bio’s patient-tailored approach, capable of accommodating intricate cancer cells, aims to improve recovery rates for underserved cancers within the sector. Although the smaller and more complex samples present challenges, combining them with computational models and broader clinical data helps mitigate these complexities.
While the development timeline for novel drugs may prevent current patients from benefiting directly from treatments derived from their tumor cells, leveraging public databases to analyze the prevalence of mutations and proteins among the general population of cancer patients can be advantageous for future cases.