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Why NFX Invested in Pepper Bio: The ‘Waze for Drug Discovery’ Will Treat the Untreatable

Omri Amirav-Drory, Ph.D. · @omri_drory · Gita Reinitz · Nov 2021

Pepper Bio

When we look at the world’s biggest problems, disease is always at the top of the list. Yet despite the latest advancements in technology, and even the speed with which we developed vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, there are still hundreds of untreatable diseases that millions of people suffer and die from every year.

The unfortunate reality is, it’s not lucrative for pharmaceutical companies to invest in notoriously complex and hard-to-treat diseases. More than half of drugs that enter Phase III of clinical trials end up failing, costing pharma $2.6 billion on average to bring a successful therapy to market.

When we first met Samantha and Jon, the founders of Pepper Bio, they were hell-bent on treating the untreatable. After 10+ years of R&D and drug development strategy consulting, they discovered that these companies were missing an essential element in every phase of the clinical trial that would dramatically increase its chances of success.

So they built a solution that would allow pharmaceutical companies to confidently tackle the most challenging diseases, while also improving marginally effective drugs already on the market.

Introducing Waze for Drug Discovery

Imagine the current drug discovery process as a 2D map. You have all the streets, highways, and cities laid out in front of you so you can figure out how to get from point A to point B, but once you’re actually on the road it’s a completely different experience.

Pepper Bio is like a Waze for drug discovery in that it provides all the critical information needed to get from point A — the beginning of the clinical trial, to point B — bringing a successful drug to market. Similar to Waze’s real-time warnings about potholes, tolls, roadblocks, and nearby accidents, Pepper Bio informs drug development teams about the real-time biological data that can be used to navigate the fastest and safest route to positive patient outcomes.

Leveraging artificial intelligence and proprietary transomics — including newly discovered phosphoproteomics — Pepper Bio identifies how and why novel drug candidates may or may not be effective in specific patient populations and diseases. In turn, this information directs drug discovery initiatives toward the most promising disease targets and leads to patients who will be helped most with reduced side effects.

Today, Pepper Bio has demonstrated proof of concept of the company’s proprietary platform across three therapeutic areas — Neurodegenerative, Oncology, and Inflammatory — and has formed a research partnership with Stanford University to implement its technology in trials. And, the already impressive MIT and Harvard alumni founders have recruited some of the world’s top scientists to lead the Scientific Advisory Board, including Douglas Lauffenberger, Ph.D., Founder of Biological Engineering at MIT.; Dean Felsher, MD, Ph.D., Professor, of Oncology, and Director of Translational Research, Stanford, and Tom Rush, Ph.D., Chief R&D Officer, Variant Bio, and Former US Lead in Functional Genomics at GlaxoSmithKline — to name a few.

This is just the beginning of our investment in Pepper Bio. I have no doubt their work will have a far-reaching positive impact on all of us, and will give hope to people suffering from the most dreadful diagnoses.

Visit Pepper Bio online: https://pepper.bio

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