14 Sep An Interview with Evan Feinberg, Genesis Therapeutics
Evan Feinberg is a scientist and entrepreneur whose lifelong mission is to radically improve the way we discover new medicines. Dr. Feinberg started Genesis Therapeutics, an a16z-funded, AI-driven drug discovery company, to do just that. Before graduate school, Dr. Feinberg studied Applied Physics as an undergraduate at Yale while working on carbon nanotubes as cancer drug delivery agents at Sloan-Kettering. Read his full bio.
Interview with Evan Feinberg, Genesis Therapeutics
Q: You recently raised $4.1 million in seed funding from Andreessen Horowitz and Felicis Ventures. What differentiates Genesis Therapeutics from the over 200 AI/ML drug development startups in this space?
A: Genesis is unique in its groundbreaking deep learning technology, its synergy of machine learning (ML) with biophysical simulation, and its pairing of AI with biotech expertise. Our molecular AI platform is specifically-designed for the biopharma industry, and we have not only a strong technology foundation based on our origination in the acclaimed Pande Lab at Stanford, but our team includes biotech industry pioneers with multiple FDA-approved “first- and only-in-class” therapies.
In addition, we are currently the only AI-driven biotech backed by both top-tier, peer-reviewed journal publications, as well as real-world validation of our proprietary technologies by a leading pharma company. With our tightly integrated, interdisciplinary leadership, Genesis is the first company to bring together cutting-edge deep learning methods specifically developed for drug development with proven biopharma leadership.
Q: What is unique about the graph convolutional neural networks algorithm that Genesis Therapeutics is using, and where the technology was invented?
A: Genesis Therapeutics originated its state-of-the-art AI technology from the renowned Pande Lab at Stanford, where I completed my Ph.D. in “Artificial Intelligence Methods for Molecular Property Prediction.” Working with Dr. Pande, I both conducted massive scale biophysical simulations and invented PotentialNet, the initial component of the company’s portfolio of cutting-edge AI technology. PotentialNet is currently the most advanced neural network algorithm for molecular property prediction and is supported by published peer-reviewed research and validated in a real-world pharmaceutical setting through a collaboration between Stanford and a top five pharma company.
Our graph convolutional neural network algorithm, PotentialNet, is unique in that it leverages neural networks that directly reflect symmetries of nature, and it represents molecules as atoms and bonds, as opposed pixels, voxels, or text. In other words, instead of treating molecules as if they were pictures or words, we created an algorithmic framework tailored to drug development. PotentialNet is the most advanced neural network algorithm for molecular property prediction.
The combination of biophysical simulation with PotentialNet enables field-leading performance in predicting potency, selectivity, pharmacokinetics, and toxicity. It is the only platform supported by published peer-reviewed research and validated in a real-world pharmaceutical setting through a collaboration between Stanford and a top five pharma company, in which PotentialNet, showed a 65% improvement in ADME prediction. For more in-depth information, please see our two papers – https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acscentsci.8b00507, and https://arxiv.org/abs/1903.11789.
We spun Genesis out of Stanford so we could ambitiously expand our portfolio of cutting-edge AI technologies and recruit industry leaders in drug development to create the next generation of therapies for patients with severe medical conditions. By continuously innovating in deep learning and forming a tight feedback loop between our software engineers and proven drug developers, we will, with greater rapidity, discover more potent, selective and bioavailable small molecule therapies.
Q: Why have you decided to enter the drug development space in your academic studies and now with Genesis Therapeutics?
A: My life decisions have been driven by my passion for making a difference, a constant curiosity about AI, and personal experience with a rare disease.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work in the renowned Pande Lab at Stanford, where I completed my Ph.D. in “Artificial Intelligence Methods for Molecular Property Prediction.” Working with Dr. Pande, I both conducted massive scale biophysical simulations and co-invented PotentialNet, the initial component of the company’s portfolio of cutting-edge AI technology.
Additionally, my life experience has driven a strong interest in creating solutions for patients. When I was in college, I began dealing with recurring compartment syndrome and peripheral neuropathy, which essentially meant that my legs were in constant pain, making standing for long hours at the lab bench or walking to class unbearable. As a result, I endured four significant leg operations, months of recovery, and a plethora of medical experiences (and challenges). My journey has given me an intimate, first-hand experience and understanding of the limitations of the current biopharma offerings. It also inspired me to pivot my academic focus and life’s work. The day-to-day challenges I face have made me even more acutely motivated to lead Genesis to revolutionize how we discover and develop drugs so that patients with a range of disease, impacting both duration and quality of life, can have hope for treatments.
Q: What is Genesis Therapeutics’ growth strategy?
A: Genesis Therapeutics is focused on developing potent, selective and bioavailable medicines with greater rapidity. The company expects to develop drug candidates both internally and selectively in partnership with biopharmaceutical companies.
We are currently expanding our cutting-edge AI enabled drug discovery team with the active recruitment of software engineers, AI engineers and scientists, as we focus on specific drug discovery programs addressing the treatment of patients suffering with severe disorders.
Q: Tell me about your leadership team.
A: Our team comprises AI pioneers joined by top industry drug developers whose collaboration is enabling breakthrough drug discovery, drug development and powerful pharmaceutical partnerships. I co-founded the company earlier this year with software engineering leader and startup veteran Ben Sklaroff and James Schaeffer, Ph.D. Ben received a degree in EECS from UC Berkeley, then joined Markforged when it was still in a garage. He led the software team at Markforged as it became the 10th fastest growing company in North America. Our Board of Directors is chaired by Leonard Bell, M.D. biotech pioneer, principal founder and former long-time CEO of Alexion Pharmaceuticals. And, biotech innovator Peppi Prasit, Ph.D. serves as Chair of our Scientific Advisory Board.
Drs. Bell and Prasit have collectively driven the discovery and development of eleven FDA-approved treatments, including “first and only-in-class” therapeutics and blockbuster drugs. Their combined management experience spans all phases of clinical development and includes overseeing product launches and sales approximating $4 billion per year. Drawing upon these individual areas of expertise and our proprietary technology, Genesis’ tightly integrated team of engineers and proven drug developers is inventing a faster process to develop more selective, potent and bioavailable drugs.