Blood cancer startup targets treatment personalization

Matt De Silva was working at Peter Thiel’s hedge fund, Clarium Capital, when he learned his father had three rare brain tumors. That discovery led De Silva to a deep dive into personalized cancer drug recommendations — and ultimately toward founding Notable Labs.

The Foster City-based company pairs artificial intelligence software with flow cytometry lab instruments to figure out which treatment, or combination of drugs, will be the most effective for different types of cancers. Notable is focused on blood cancers, such as leukemia, because of the large amount of cells available for testing and the quicker turnaround time, De Silva said. In turn, the company is looking to assist drug companies and academic institutions in recruiting the right kinds of patients for clinical trials.

Founded in 2014, the company has grown to 35 employees — a combination of engineers, biologists and operations staff — and raised a $10 million Series A in 2017, bringing its total funding to over $17 million.

Earlier this month, Stanford Medical Center shared the results of a new study which tested the feasibility of personalized medicine by sending Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) blood cancer samples to Notable, along with Tempus, a Chicago-based gene sequencing precision medicine company.

“Drug sensitivity technology must have a rapid turnaround time, accuracy and efficacy in order to be useful in the clinic,” Peter Greenberg, director of MDS Center at Stanford University Cancer Center, said in a statement.

The goal of the 20-patient study was to see if the Stanford MDS tumor board could complete personalized recommendations within 30 days — including the analysis of hundreds of requested drugs and drug combos by Notable, as well as DNA testing by Tempus. After the month-long trial, 100 percent of physicians received recommendations for their patients.

“What that means for us is we can go to larger clinical trials — trials where we support multiple groups in different hospitals,” De Silva added. Already, Notable has ongoing trials with UCSF for pediatric leukemia patients and at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

De Silva noted that there’s been some push back from those in the field who see gene sequencing as the premier personalized treatment option.

Atrium Health launches first clinical trial for Covid-19 patients

Pittsburgh biotech firm ‘milestone’ will help it speed Covid-19 therapy to clinical trial

These are the Tampa Bay area health care systems participating in coronavirus clinical trials

“The study combined these two approaches instead of saying one is better than the other,” he said. “We are excited to present this as a complementary technique.”

Going forward, De Silva hopes to target the bevy of cancers without many drugs FDA approved and use Notable’s analysis to help identify which drugs need more attention for trials.