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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

GATC Aims to Slash Time for Drug Testing

Raises $25M; counts UCI ties

An Irvine-based startup is trying to convince investors that it can use artificial intelligence to dramatically reduce the time needed to show if a drug can work in a clinical trial.

GATC Health Corp. last month gave its first public demonstration of its platform that aims to use AI to boost drug discovery and disease prediction, called Multiomics Advanced Technology.

The demonstration, held at Costa Mesa’s Avenue of the Arts Hotel, was limited to those who have invested more than $100,000 each in the 2-year-old company.

The investors are individuals, including friends and family members—and some billionaires, GATC President Jeff Moses told the Business Journal.

“We’ve got some marquee investors,” Moses said, declining to identify them.

IPO Plans?

GATC, which is an acronym for the four building blocks of amino acids, has thus far raised $25 million from about 400 investors, Moses said.

The company, founded in 2020, says its AI platform “analyzes human DNA and multiomics data to provide products and services for its customers that are faster, more cost effective and more accurate than our competitors.”

In addition to landing a sizeable amount of funding, the company has attracted several notable board members, advisers and employees, and has close ties to researchers at the University of California, Irvine.

The company, which as of midyear counted an accumulated deficit of about $21 million and working capital of $3.6 million, very well may try to go public.

Its interim CEO is John Stroh, a longtime healthcare investor who is also the senior managing director at Irvine-based Boustead Securities, a boutique investment banker known for taking small companies public on Wall Street.

GATC’s website touts the initial public offering of Vancouver-based AbCellera Biologics Inc. (Nasdaq: ABCL), an artificial intelligence drug discovery platform that raised $483 million last year in a public offering and now has a $3.4 billion market cap.

“Companies like AbCellera could present interesting collaborative opportunities for GATC Health,” the company’s website said. “Just as importantly, their success on the Nasdaq tells us we are in exactly the right market at exactly the right time.”


The company’s core technology was co-developed 10 years ago by Chief Science Officer Ian Jenkins, who got his start in the genetic/genomic space in 1998 when he worked for a year as a technician and researcher for the Human Genome Project at Midwestern University. He worked in areas including gene knockouts, gene discovery and asexual replication/cloning.

Another co-developer of the platform was Chief Technology Officer Jayson Uffens, whose background includes senior technology roles at GoDaddy, Grubhub, American Express and Wynn Resorts, among others.

The company in August hired as its chief medical officer Dr. Robert Sorrentino, who was the global chief medical scientist at the IBM-TJ Watson Research Center.

“Their scientific leadership are incredibly intelligent individuals who have experience in the field,” Dr. Jonathan Lakey, a professor emeritus in surgery and biomedical engineering at UCI, told the Business Journal.

Lakey, an expert in stem cell research for diabetes, became intrigued by the platform’s potential and decided to chair the company’s scientific advisory board.

“It fascinated me that we could identify an individual at risk of developing diabetes, which is my field of expertise,” said Lakey, who said he’s not an investor.

If the platform works for diabetes, then “We can offer these patients treatments to prevent them from getting the disease in the first place.”

On Nov. 10, the company announced Dr. Richard Schatz, who was co-inventor of the coronary stent, had joined as chairman of its medical advisory board.

Irvine Convergence

The company currently employs 20 with its headquarters in Irvine, which Moses called “a hub of innovation.”

“It’s a convergence of tech and business. It’s a great place to start a company,” he said.

Moses himself doesn’t have a scientific background and instead has a career in marketing.

Moses said he’s spent the past 20 years in startups and growth stage companies and helping raise funds.

“I’m well versed in regulatory compliance,” he said. “Luckily, I’m not running the tech and science side of the business.”

Other members of its science team include Eric Mathur, who holds more than 100 patents and who has been in several startups that were eventually acquired, and Dr. Jack Lewin, who was CEO of the American College of Cardiology and who has advised three U.S. presidents.

Its advisory board includes Kevin Harrington, one of the original members of ABC TV show “Shark Tank,” and John O’Reilly, chairman of the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada Governing Board in Las Vegas.

Its strategic adviser is Mark Palaima, who spent a decade building eBay’s technology.

“When I was first introduced to GATC Health, I quickly understood just how valuable their platform could be in advancing the quality of healthcare,” Palaima said in a statement. “This is true artificial intelligence, which understands complex biological systems at a cellular level.

“I believe GATC Health is positioned to radically transform the fields of predictive diagnostics and the creation of therapeutics that are safer, more effective and focused on restoring homeostasis, not just symptom relief.”

400T Data Points

The company says its platform can analyze 400 trillion biological data points in seven minutes and simulate biochemical interactions to accurately predict the response of a pharmaceutical asset to a specific disease.

“Our platform mimics human biology,” Moses said. “What our platform is able to do with 88% accuracy is predict what drugs will be successful.”

GATC plans to develop its own drugs as well as advise pharmaceutical companies about whether their drugs can work.

The company says it has the potential to improve treatments such as addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, major depressive disorder and other neurological diseases. It’s filed eight patents in the areas of depression, drug overdoses, brain tumors and diabetes.

“We can look at any kind of illness,” Moses said. “We can make predictions about health risks. The applications are extremely broad.”

UCI Ties

GATC announced a partnership with Dr. Christie Fowler, an assistant professor of neurobiology at UCI, for pre-clinical programs to determine the novel drug candidates’ safety and efficacy in reducing opioid consumption, withdrawal symptoms and relapse.

GATC obtained addiction drug target biomarkers from Liquid Biosciences, an Aliso Viejo-based biomarker discovery company.

GATC also earlier this year announced an agreement with Akon Lighting Inc., which was founded by music artist and philanthropist Akon. They have started an initiative to gather and study the genetics, biological data and other important health information of at least 1 million people across Africa.

“Akon Lighting and GATC Health’s mission is simple, utilize our resources to the best of our ability to close healthcare gaps in Africa,” Akon said. ­

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Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan has been a journalist for 40 years. He spent a decade in Latin America covering wars, narcotic traffickers, earthquakes, and business. His resume includes 15 years at Bloomberg News where his headlines and articles sometimes moved the market caps of companies he covered by hundreds of millions of dollars. His articles have been published worldwide, including the New York Times and the Washington Post; he's appeared on CNN, CBC, BBC, and Bloomberg TV. He was awarded a Kiplinger Fellowship at The Ohio State University.

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