Relentlessly (if quietly) preparing the future

February 22, 2021

The Convair Model 118, from 1947

In 2011 Peter Thiel famously quipped, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.”  His comment was taken by some to suggest that entrepreneurs and their backers had shifted away from transformational technologies.

One year later Moderna Theraputics was founded, and one year after that Lucira Health was.  Both received backing from venture firms, and both are now transforming the COVID-ravaged world: the former by creating a vaccine to battle the most devastating health crisis the world has experienced in over 100 years, and the latter by creating the first at-home (self administered) test for the same.

In our little corner of the world two of our own portfolio companies, Carterra and Y-Prime, are involved in important COVID-related work on vaccines, testing, and therapeutic trials.

  • Carterra is playing a meaningful role in the fight against COVID, continuing their work with the Gates Foundation and the La Jolla Institute of Immunology.  The Carterra LSA platform for accelerating the discovery of therapeutic antibodies is being used to screen therapies and to investigate virus mutations that will make COVID-19 more difficult to treat or vaccinate against.  Eli Lilly and AbCellera used the LSA platform, which enables 100 times the binding data to be collected in 10% of the time with 1% of the sample (vs. competing platforms), to bring an antibody from concept to clinical trials in 90 days – a process that normally takes years.
  • COVID has altered the landscape of clinical outcome assessments (COAs), creating significant new challenges in patient participation and data collection. Most sponsors have no experience with virtual trials and have seen delays and cancellations in their urgent work. In this interview, Y-Prime’s Vice President of Strategic Solutions Donna Mongiello discusses trends in the “virtualization” of clinical trials.  Y-Prime is helping to transform how eCOAs recruit patients, distribute devices,  train sites and patients, and gather data.

While it is true that not every start-up may be as historically meaningful as the aforementioned, and technological innovation doesn’t always move as linearly or breezily as imagined in the movies, more than a few of them are always laying the groundwork for a future that is healthier and happier for us all.

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