The startup’s round of funding will be used to develop and, in the future, distribute an approach to fighting cancer that founder Tim Lu told TechCrunch could be compared to basic and more complex forms of programming.
“Instead of creating a program that just says ‘Hello world,’ you can introduce ‘if’ statements and object-oriented programming,” said Lu.
What the Treatment Can Do
The treatment can target multiple receptors instead of just one, making it uniquely equipped to fight cancer cells effectively. This approach, which utilizes so-called “synthetic biologics,” has the potential to root out harmful cells and attack them accordingly. In other words, scientists could hypothetically use technology of the type Senti Biosciences is developing to revolutionize the way world medical professionals treat cancer.
Moreover, research from the Stanford University School of Medicine shows that these strategies can be performed without substantial harm to healthy cells.
In an article from ScienceDaily, Michael Lin, MD, Ph.D., associate professor of neurobiology and of bioengineering at the university, says the developments allow scientists and doctors more power over the disease’s development.
"We're effectively rewiring the cancer cells to bring about an outcome of our choosing," he said. "We've always searched for a way to kill cancer cells but not normal cells. Cancer cells arise from faulty signals that allow them to grow inappropriately, so we've hacked into cancer cells to redirect these faulty signals to something useful."
Among the company’s first targets are myeloid leukemia (which affects blood and bone marrow), hepatocellular carcinoma (which is the most common form of liver cancer), and others.
Leaps by Bayer, the pharmaceutical giant’s investment wing, led the funding for the startup. A representative from the firm said the company fit squarely within its mission to support companies developing revolutionary treatments for disease. Leaps’ investment brings Senti’s total funding to under $160 million.
This growth is unlikely to slow. The global synthetic biology market is growing at a rapid pace — nearly 30%, compounded annually. While the market was worth a massive $5.9 billion in 2019, it is expected to reach about $19 billion by 2024.
The Direction of Synthetic Cancer Treatments
Clearly, in the world of synthetic biologics, things are on the up and up. Investors are taking notice. Other bioscience companies in this sphere will doubtless arise, but Senti’s acquisition of funding from Bayer places them in a unique position.
The relatively-young startup, founded only in 2016, has secured an impressive level of funding for the worthy cause of ending cancer. By no means is the end of cancer in sight, but the existence of companies like Senti, and the confidence placed in them by key pharmaceutical players like Bayer, is a heartening sign.
About the Author
Elijah Labby is a graduate of the National Journalism Center. He has previously written for Broadband Breakfast, a technology and internet policy website.