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Imaging of a kidney tumor. Image credit: US National Cancer Institute / Unsplash

Faeth raises $20m from Khosla, AgFunder to battle cancer with food

January 18, 2022

Disclosure: AFN’s parent company, AgFunder, is an investor in Faeth Therapeutics.

Faeth Therapeutics, a startup developing precision nutrition solutions to help fight cancer, has raised $20 million in seed funding in a round led by Khosla Ventures and Future Ventures. AgFunder, Digitalis Ventures, S2G Ventures, KdT Ventures, Cantos, and Unshackled Ventures also joined the round.

Faeth’s machine learning-driven preclinical discovery platform, MetabOS, aims to identify which nutrients have a positive or negative impact on the growth of tumors based on genotype, organ of origin, and therapy. Preclinical data suggest that “precisely designed” diets can improve patient responses to other cancer therapies while also imbuing a therapeutic effect themselves.

According to Faeth, metabolism — that is, the human body’s process of transforming the food we eat into useful compounds and energy — plays an “essential role” in the growth of tumors. Cancer cell metabolism can also help tumors to defend against medical interventions such as chemotherapy and targeted therapies, “essentially making anticancer drugs less effective.”

Faeth’s solution seeks to “starve” tumors by “exploiting the differences in metabolism and nutrient uptake between healthy and cancerous tissues.”

It achieves this through “modulation of dietary nutrients.” Patients are onboarded into a highly personalized precision nutrition program combining meals, therapeutics, and advice from a team of dieticians. “Chef-crafted,” ‘modulated’ meals and snacks are delivered direct to the patient’s door.

Faeth believes that “modulation of dietary nutrients will join surgery, radiotherapy, small molecules, and biologics as a pillar of the treatment paradigm in cancer care.”

The San Francisco-based startup counts several high-profile cancer scientists among its founding team, including Lew Cantley, director of the Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine; Sid Mukherjee, oncologist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center; and Karen Vousden, chief scientist of Cancer Research UK.

“We’re excited to bring together the world’s leaders in cancer, to solve the existing challenge of how nutrition can be harnessed to improve outcomes across oncology [using] machine learning,” co-founder and CEO Anand Parikh said in a statement.

“We’re using precision therapies, software, and nutrition to help treat cancer, for the millions of patients who desperately need better outcomes.”

Parikh added that the seed funding will allow Faeth to commence first-in-human clinical trials for its lead therapeutic candidate Serabelisb, an isoform-selective PI3Kα inhibitor. Phosphoinositide 3-kinases, or PI3Ks, are a family of enzymes associated with cell growth, proliferation, and differentiation, as well as the establishment and growth of tumors. Faeth co-founder Cantley and his former team at Tufts University first discovered PI3Ks in 1985 and conducted much of the early work around understanding their role in tumorigenesis.

The capital will also be deployed to grow the team and to carry out further tech development of the MetabOS platform and patient-facing software.

“We have long believed in the power of food as medicine,” said Tom Shields, partner at AgFunder. “Faeth’s early results in creating specific diets have the potential to change the trajectory of certain types of cancer, and pave the way for a completely new pillar of cancer treatment.”

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