Fauna Bio’s Comparative Genomics Approach Finds New Compounds for Heart and Lung Diseases

Fauna Bio, a biotechnology company pioneering the fields of comparative, computational and translational genomics, is celebrating its fourth birthday this month with the release of Centaur, a knowledge graph that is the first of its kind to visualize the intersection between animal gene expression data and human diseases in one comprehensive map. With Centaur, Fauna Bio is able to more rapidly identify human disease indications and targets to generate new therapeutic solutions for some of the most serious human diseases. Orca is another new update to the Convergence platform, and enables direct comparison of gene expression signatures from naturally disease-resistant species with those from humans. Convergence now leverages genomic analyses across 452 mammal species (65 of which are hibernators), an 86 percent increase from two years ago.

Much of the company’s focus is cardiac and pulmonary diseases, where current treatments mainly focus on symptom management rather than treating the underlying condition. Faun1003, a compound discovered through LEO (Fauna Bio’s drug prediction module), is being investigated for use in lung injury and pulmonary hypertension. While uniquely differentiated, retrospective analyses of similar compounds show a survival advantage in critical care settings for patients with lung injury that receive this drug, providing additional human support for the target of Faun1003.

Fauna Bio’s first neuronal program, Faun264G, looks to improve the survival of human neurons deprived of glucose. A pilot study found knockdown of 264G in-vivo impairs the ability of 13-lined ground squirrels to enter torpor, validating its function. Fauna will continue with expanded in-vivo experiments to understand its role in controlling metabolism this summer. Fauna Bio has also initiated a new discovery program in inflammatory bowel disease, seeking targets to improve epithelial barrier function and reduce immune cell migration. Forty-five percent of compounds predicted for use in IBD by LEO have already been investigated, suggesting strong enrichment for IBD targets. The company has also completed brain cortex and kidney sequencing, with target predictions coming soon.

These updates build on the company’s momentum since raising $9M in funding last year. Since then, Fauna has expanded partnerships with leading academic institutions, including the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Monash University in Australia. Both collaborations focus on studying genes from the 13-lined ground squirrel that allow for survival during hibernation under extreme conditions. Monash University will assist in additional pre-clinical testing of Fauna compounds, while UW-O supports the existing colony, additional tissue collections, and in-vivo experiments. Through a new partnership with the University of Nevada – Las Vegas, Fauna will add genes from tenrecs, a second hibernating species, to Fauna Bio’s proprietary biobank.

“We continue to see how the power of comparative genomics, and looking outside of our own species, is like building a stronger magnet to help us find that elusive needle in the haystack. By introducing a small amount of the right data and applying it in the right way, we can more quickly identify the real opportunities to make a difference for people suffering from diseases with unmet needs,” said Ashley Zehnder, Ph.D., D.V.M, CEO of Fauna Bio. “We’ve had incredible support from the National Human Genomics Research Institute, the National Institute of Health, our investors, and advisors to continue educating and bringing these programs closer to finding real therapeutic solutions for many of the worst human diseases.”

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