Phenomic AI starts with $6M using AI/ML for Targeting the Tumor Stroma

Phenomic AI, a Canadian biotechnology company that uses an AI/ML platform for targeting the tumor stroma, has launched with $6 Million in seed funding.

The Toronto-headquartered biotech Phenomic AI, which uses AI/ML to uncover drug targets that arise from cell-cell interactions and accelerate the establishment of innovative antibody drugs for challenging diseases, attracted investment from CTI Life Sciences Fund, which led the financing round, as well as AV8 Projects, Luminous Ventures and Viva BioInnovator. Garage Capital, Hike Ventures, and Cantos Ventures, current investors, also joined in. 

Phenomic AI has already seen two cancer drug targets discovered on its platform, which have been validated and are being advanced into preclinical studies. The proceeds of the funding will help finance the preclinical trials for the two validated cancer drug targets, as well as to identify and advance additional potential drug targets into the company’s pipeline.

The biotech company also announced the appointments of Dr. Michael (Mike) Briskin, as Chief Scientific Officer (CSO), and Nobel Laureate James (Jim) P. Allison, Ph.D. and Padmanee (Pam) Sharma, M.D., Ph.D., to the company’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), bringing significant expertise in immunotherapy discovery and development.

Shermaine Tilley, Ph.D., Managing Partner, CTI Life Sciences Fund said:

“Cells do not exist in isolation in the human body, and the interactions between different cell types in disease states carries significant information that Phenomic has unlocked for drug discovery.”

Ruchita Sinha, General Partner at AV8, commented further:

“In two years, the Phenomic team has made impressive progress in building their platform and using it to find new drug targets in the tumor stroma. The appointments of Mike, Jim, and Pam, leaders in immuno-oncology, further highlight the exceptional advancements of Phenomic.”

The tumor stroma has been increasingly thought of as a complex barrier, consisting of several different types of cells and other factors such as fibroblasts and the extracellular matrix, that inhibit immune therapies from functioning efficiently. Screening targets against more physiologically similar features, required to simulate the stroma, such as organoids that combine the multiple cell types, and has been a significant obstacle in developing drugs for the tumor stroma.

Phenomic’s platform tackles this challenge through the use of deep learning methods for image and genetic research to deconvolute target inhibition effects in multi-cell assays. Phenomic’s methodology aims to ensure model and pathway validity early in the drug development process by factoring in multi-omics analysis of tissue data and differential interpretation of the report provided.

Sam Cooper, CEO of Phenomic AI, stated:

“Building on our foundational machine-learning tools, we can now process and extract information from the interactions between different cell types at the scale and speed necessary to power drug discovery. We’ve rapidly identified novel targets in the tumor stroma and have confirmed that they are heavily upregulated in specific solid tumors. With the support of our new and current investors and the addition of Mike, who brings deep drug discovery expertise, we are launching the company with significant momentum to advance novel antibodies into preclinical studies that could improve the effectiveness of cancer treatment.”

Dr. Briskin has over 25 years of experience in the industry, involving establishment and leadership of innovative research for inflammation and oncology at Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, and conducting early discovery work for Entyvio® (vedolizumab) at LeukoSite (acquired by Millennium Pharmaceuticals). He currently serves as chairperson of the SAB of Obsidian Therapeutics.

Dr. Briskin, CSO of Phenomic AI said:

“Cancer and fibrotic diseases are driven by the dysregulation of local cellular environments, where multiple cell types are engaged in complicated, uncontrolled interactions, and teasing apart each cell type’s contribution has previously been a tremendous challenge. By combining insights from Phenomic’s proprietary platform, along with additional technologies based on primary human cell data, we anticipate that we will be able to quickly build out a meaningful pipeline of new antibody drugs targeting the tumor stroma and other diseases driven by multi-cellular pathologies. Furthermore, having the expertise from Jim and Pam, who are translational researchers at the frontline of immuno-oncology drug development, will provide tremendous insights into the biology and clinical strategies for our targets of interest.”

In 2018, Dr. Allison was awarded the Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking and relentless cancer immunotherapy scientific research, which led to the U.S. FDA approval of ipilimumab in 2011, a major life-extending drug for late-stage metastatic melanoma.

His ongoing scientific efforts are dedicated to studying novel targets to eventually unleash the immune system and eliminate cancer/ Dr. Sharma is a pioneer in clinical studies and drug discovery in immuno-oncology, with translational studies devoted at analyzing the immune response mechanisms and immunotherapy resistance to immunotherapy. Presently Dr. Sharma is analysing formulation of immunological therapies and other medicines combined in preclinical studies as well as early-stage clinical trials to potentially overcome specific resistance pathways and improve clinical results for cancer patients.

About CTI Life Sciences Fund

Based in Montreal, CTI Life Sciences Fund L.P. was created in 2006. The firm makes venture capital investments mostly in innovative high-quality biotech companies at the pre-clinical and clinical development stages, in North America, and primarily in Canada. Since its second mandate in 2014, CTI Life Sciences Fund manages $245 million of assets. For more info, visit

About AV8 Venture

AV8 Ventures is an early-stage VC firm comprised of industry experts, scientists, operators, and investors, that leverage their experience and the financial backing of Allianz, one of the world’s leading insurers and asset managers, to power biotech, healthcare, mobility, and enterprise startups. For more info, visit

About Phenomic AI

Phenomic AI is breaking through the barriers in drug discovery for cancer and fibrosis. The company’s platform incorporates advanced AI/ML tools to enable the screening of complex interactions at-scale in multi-cell systems to discover novel drug targets to be advanced internally or with partners. Phenomic AI is headquartered in Toronto with offices in Boston. For more info, visit

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