Boston-based start-up Pepper Bio has raised $6.5m in oversubscribed seed funding to develop its Compass drug discovery platform.

The financiers included venture capital companies such as NFX, Silverton Partners, Mana Ventures and others.

Pepper’s CEO Jon Hu told Pharmaceutical Technology that the Compass platform provides biological maps for insight into different “-omics”- genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and phosphoproteomics.

The success rate of drug development from pre-clinical studies to regulatory approval is 3%-10%, says Hu. If one can improve this success rate, it can bring down the cost of drug approval, he adds. According to Hu, the high cost of development is driven by the cost of failed iterations of the therapy.

Pepper sources its database consists of publicly and commercially available data in addition to its proprietary data, which was either generated in-house or acquired through partnerships. Hu added that public and commercial data undergoes a series of transformations including an expansion process, during which useful data across multiple different species are aggregated together. This is followed by a curation process to effectively keep only “the best, most robust data for our platform”.

Pepper’s pipeline consists of four oncology candidates in the early and late stages of discovery. Three of these therapy candidates are for MYC-driven cancers, the overexpression of MYC-gene is characteristic of malignancy.

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Hu stated that the cancers sub-grouping has improved in recent years, citing “you no longer just have lung cancer, you have EGFR mutant non-small cell lung cancer”. This has, in turn, resulted in specialised therapies with higher efficacy and lower toxicities, compared to chemotherapies. Adding that using ‘transomic’ data can further personalise treatments which have a high degree of efficacy with limited side effects.

The discovery of personalised medicines has been a growing area of research in recent years. In the oncology sector, the development of personalised cancer vaccines has been identified as a key innovation area by GlobalData.

GlobalData is the parent company of Pharmaceutical Technology.

In June, Moderna and MSD (Merck & Co) presented data from the Phase II study (NCT03897881) showing that the use of mRNA-4157 vaccine, jointly developed by both companies, in combination with MSD’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab) reduced the risk of distant metastasis or death in patients with high-risk stage III/IV melanoma by 65%.