Zafrens Raises $23M in Financing

Zafrens, a San Diego, CA-based multi-modality drug discovery company, raised $23M in funding.

The round was led by Prime Movers Lab with participation from BlueYard Capital, KOFA Healthcare, Global Brains, FoundersX Ventures, Alix Ventures, Possible Ventures, Iaso Ventures, Hawktail, and other investors.

The company intends to use the funds to optimize breakthrough applications of its Z-Screen™ platform and advance an internal pipeline.

Led by CEO Swamy Vijayan, Zafrens is an ultra-high throughput platform to isolate, culture, image, and sequence millions of cells per day. The proprietary platform allows for full characterization of diverse cell populations, as well as directly correlating molecular profiles (DNA, RNA, protein) to cell phenotype and function. The Z-Screen™ marks an upgrade in throughput and resolution of experiments, expanding the conventional 96-well format to 50,000 – 200,000 wells with imaging and single-cell multi-omic capabilities integrated in every well. Complex cellular co-culture interactions can now be resolved at the molecular and functional levels simultaneously. Large CRISPR, CAR-T, mRNA libraries, or endogenous molecular heterogeneity, can be mapped to their individual manifestations as cell behavior, cell-cell interactions and secretions. When exposed to the very large chemical libraries that are part of Z-Screen, the simultaneous functional and molecular profiling reveals hits, structure-activity-relationships, and mechanisms of action at the same time – compressing multiple traditional drug-discovery stages in one step.

Having simplified and industrialized Z-Screens, Zafrens is looking to engage with partners in its internal areas of expertise – rapid, HLA-independent, highly-selective TCR discovery, and RNA regulatory small molecules across 3’ UTR regulation, splicing and epigenetic reprogramming. Having already demonstrated transformative capabilities in CAR-T optimization and bi-specifics discovery, the company is seeking further partnerships in these areas or additional areas where combinatorial libraries of small-molecules, genetic perturbations and/or cell-cell interactions could produce breakthroughs.