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ARIZ and Catena Awarded Golden Tickets to Bakar Labs, Sponsored by ACS BrightEdge Fund

Congratulations to ARIZ Precision Medicine and Catena Biosciences, which have won Golden Tickets to Bakar Labs, sponsored by BrightEdge, the American Cancer Society’s impact investing, innovation, and venture capital arm!

Farnaz Bakshi (center) presents the Golden Ticket to Brad Niles, CEO of ARIZ (third from left) along with the ACS BrightEdge and Bakar Labs teams.
Farnaz Bakshi (center) presents the Golden Ticket to Brad Niles, CEO of ARIZ (third from left) along with the ACS BrightEdge and Bakar Labs teams.

With the Golden Tickets, ARIZ and Catena each win one year of free office and lab space at Bakar Labs and access to BrightEdge’s robust network of resources to develop their cancer therapies. They will be able to access Berkeley campus resources, connect with Bakar Labs’ business affiliates, and network with more than 30 fellow tenant companies. The combination of support from Bakar Labs and BrightEdge will, most importantly, allow ARIZ and Catena to bring their technology to patients sooner.

Both companies have also won access to “Enable the Molecule,” a new program from WuXi Biologics that supports translational academic projects and early-stage biotech.

Marco Lobba, CEO of Catena (center) accepts the Golden Ticket from the BrightEdge and Bakar Labs teams.

“Cancer has been for us an absolutely top priority target,” said Marco Lobba, CEO and co-founder of Catena, which is developing a unique protein conjugation technology that could have wide application to cancer therapies. “It offers so many advantages in terms of the validation of the areas we can build out in. We’re thrilled to be working with ACS. There are still so many areas of oncology that are just not being addressed today. Our technology really gives us the opportunity to do that for the first time.”

ARIZ is developing short interfering RNA, nanoparticles, and technology to precisely deliver the drug to its target.

“I’m really looking forward to being part of the ecosystem here, getting access to a lot of things that haven’t been able to get access to before,” said Brad Niles, CEO of ARIZ. “We’ll be able to advance progress in the company at a much quicker rate.”

The Golden Tickets were sponsored by BrightEdge, whose primary mission is to invest in and support innovative startup companies developing cutting-edge, cancer-focused therapeutics, diagnostics, devices, and technologies to fuel and accelerate ACS’s mission of ending cancer as we know it, for everyone. BrightEdge’s goal is to advance science, reduce disparities, and promote health care sustainability.

Mixed group of people standing in the Bakar BioEnginuity Hub courtyard
The awards were presented in the courtyard at the Bakar BioEnginuity Hub, following a competitive pitch session.

“We saw some very cool science, very relevant to our mission, bringing innovation into new therapeutics and diagnostics,” said Lucas de Breed, director of BrightEdge. “It was very hard to pick two companies from this cohort. The two that we selected, we hope to help them with cancer applications. We need to bring in that clinical unmet need perspective. We would love to see their work taken one step further. I hope that with this Golden Ticket and becoming part of the Bakar community, that they can really accelerate their work and benefit from the cross-fertilization and collaboration.”

Admission to the WuXi program came as an unexpected, welcome bonus, said Catena’s CEO Marco Lobba.

“We’re trying to help early-stage companies accelerate development and biologics, providing various educational resources providing expert consulting with our CMC and discovery experts, as well as some financial credits to help them extend their runway a little bit,” said Calvin Chen, director of corporate development and investment at WuXi Biologics.

Chen added that as a Berkeley MCB alum, he is excited to be able to give back to the campus and help build the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The BrightEdge and Bakar Labs teams made the award presentations following a competitive pitch session featuring five finalists. In addition to ARIZ and Catena, the judging panel heard from:

  • Anviron, a team of oncologists and biochemists specializing in the glycobiome, an emerging area of study that relates protein synthesis and development to human diseases such as cancer. Their lead candidate was awarded Orphan Drug Designation for treatment of PDAC.
  • HOPO Therapeutics, experts in the biochemistry of radioactive heavy metals, who are spinning out a new company using that expertise to continue development of a novel platform to enable best-in-class targeted theranostics for cancer.
  • MarWell Bio, a preclinical drug-discovery company focused on the intelligent and rapid design and optimization of next-generation best-in-class cancer antibody therapeutics. Their patent-pending platform can accurately create antibodies in months rather than years.

“These Golden Tickets really epitomize the Bakar Labs mission, which is to bring together the ecosystem, the funders, and the startups to really make breakthroughs in major health challenges today,” said Gino Segrè, managing director of Bakar Labs.