Obatala Sciences, a New Orleans-based company that helps pharmaceutical companies bring new drugs to market faster through a diversity-focused testing technology, has raised $3 million from a group of investors in its latest round of financing.
The money will be used to speed development of Obatala’s products, which includes alternatives to traditional testing in the quest to treat and prevent obesity, diabetes, cancer, and regenerative medicines.
Obatala, co-founded five years ago by its CEO, Trivia Frazier, has focused on innovation in the field of drug and treatment testing, which often is a laborious and multiyear process of progressing slowly from tests on cells to animals to humans. Obatala has developed a method to model fat outside of the body and use it to predict a human response. The technology, dubbed “fat-on-a-chip,” allows testing on a more diverse range of tissue, which makes the testing process speedier and cheaper.
Moving to The Beach
Frazier said the company has put in place its building blocks with earlier rounds of financing and is now aiming to grow rapidly in the next couple of years. “We have had robust growth in our customer base and are pursuing more intellectual property licensing and putting in place the sales and marketing elements to help us scale up,” she said in a phone interview.
The company is currently based at the Advanced Materials Research Institute at the University of New Orleans. She said it is planning to move to new space that is triple the size of their current premises at UNO’s The Beach facility and to double the workforce from 14 over the next 18 months or so.
The latest round of funding, which Obatala is calling “series A” to specify it comes after early “seed” funding and is to finance commercialization of the company’s products, is led by être Venture Capital, a venture fund led by women.
Jennifer Kuan, a partner at être Venture Capital, pointed out recent developments that have enhanced the attractiveness of Obatala’s approach in the drug and treatment testing arena.
“Recently the (Food and Drug Administration) has signaled the need to improve predictivity by reducing the use of animal-derived tissues, while the (National Institutes of Health) has been calling for greater diversity in testing,” she said in a statement announcing the funding. “Obatala Sciences’ diverse human-derived products are the exact solution designed for these market directions.”
Developing Matrigel alternative
Other investors in this funding round are Ochsner Lafayette General Healthcare Innovation Fund II, a fund started three years ago to invest in growing companies like Obatala. The fund was among a group of investors that already invested in Obatala two years ago, which included other Ochsner investing entities. Benson Capital Partners, part of Gayle Benson’s investment empire, also is investing, as well as Elevate Capital Fund and The Hackett-Robertson-Tobe Group.
Another milestone the company is looking to is approval of several new products that are aimed at providing alternatives to Matrigel, a stem cell culture product widely used in testing that has been in chronic short supply recently.