Reimagining Cancer: A Hemi Ventures Forum

by Justin Li, Principal @ Hemi Ventures

With the Cancer Moonshot project calling for a cure for cancer, the biotech industry is gearing up to develop the next generation of cancer killers. In recent years, a new wave of powerful tools has been developed by researchers and companies. Aided by the latest genomic and computational technology, innovators in oncology research are developing novel therapies to transcend the current treatment options.

On September 23rd, Hemi Ventures brought together the experts in cancer-related research and development and discussed utilizing bioinformatics to understand cancer treatments with next-generation sequencing technologies; using machine learning to help support medical decisions; implementing innovative technologies to improve drug discoveries.

Dr. Howard Chang, Stanford Professor
Dr. Will Greenleaf, Stanford Assistant Professor

Session I & II: Personal Regulome Navigation of Cancer

Dr. Howard Chang discussed his research in epigenomics along with Stanford Associate Professor Will Greenleaf. As a physician scientist Dr Chang’s research is focused on how genes are controlled. He pointed out that the human genome includes 3 billion bases of information. The conventional view is that there are only a small portion of genes that impact disease, where in fact 98% of the genome is dedicated to gene control, and vast majority of human disease risks actually reside here. Dr Chang’s research focuses on interpreting how genes are controlled and has piloted the personal regulome from blood. From a standard blood draw, the team developed methods isolate a cell type of interest and map the epigenome using transposase all in the same tube. The whole process has 15 minutes of hands on time and from patient to data is just 10 hours. This tool has enabled much richer data generation within a short time frame.

IIya Rachman, M.D. PhD. Cedars Sinai

Session III: Immix Case Study - Taking Drug from Concept to Clinic

Immix founder Ilya Rachman shared his story of founding the company and discussed the key success factors of taking a drug from concept to clinic. He contributed the company’s success to building products with validated previous success in the research field; Being able to leverage R&D incentives and competent, capital efficient service providers both at home and abroad; And focusing on phase specific developments

Susan Kaufman - Sr. Scientific Researcher, Genentech ; Christopher Wheeler - Associate Professor, Cedars Sinai ; Kolin Hribar - Cypre CEO ; Seema Kantak - MS, PhD Biopharma Exeutive

Session IV:Implementing Innovative Technologies to Improve Efficiency and Quality of Cancer Therapies

Cypre founder Kolin C. Hribar sat down with Dr. Christopher Wheeler from Cedars Sinai; Genentech Sr. scientific researcher Susan Kaufman and Seema Kantak to talk about implementing innovative technologies to improve efficiency and quality of cancer therapies. The panelists noted that the current pharmaceutical companies face the dilemma of low throughput drug discovery and high failure rate of drugs going from in vitro to vivo stage. Pharmaceutical industry is constantly looking for new technologies that will help increase the efficiencies of drug development cycle. Innovative companies like Cypre is disrupting the current drug discovery scene.

Amy Gu - Managing Director, Hemi Ventures ; Dr. Lei Xing - Stanford Professor

Session V: AI, The Next Frontier of Healthcare

Hemi Ventures Managing Partner Amy Gu and Stanford Physician and Professor Lei Xing discussed the emergence of AI technologies in the clinical world. Professor Lei Xing noted while 2D images have been well interpreted and utilized by the medical professions, there is a lack of tools to help understand 3D and 4D data, of which the existence of AI has played a crucial role in recent years. With an explosion of data, Professor Lei Xing is looking forward to seeing more tools, newer algorithms that will help making medical decisions more efficient and accurate.

Session VI: Investing in a Cure for Cancer -a VC’s Perspective

Hemi Ventures Managing Partner Amy Gu also shared her insights in healthcare investment scene at the moment, she noted some recent trends in the industry: pharmaceutical companies are more inclined to enlist outside resources in the drug development processes; Leading pharmaceutical companies are setting aside large fund to acquire technologies, targets and assets; Out licensing developments and co-developments are becoming a new industry norm.

Oncology related technologies have always remain in the focal point of Hemi’s investment thesis. Not only is Hemi Ventures a venture capital firm, we also consider ourselves a social enterprise and want to participate in the endeavor to overcome the most notorious disease humanity faces today. We believe the answer to challenge the current state of cancer researches is by identifying teams combining the power of software, data and cutting edge medical science breakthroughs.

Hemi’s central investment thesis is that technology shapes the world. Hemi navigates a dynamic startup ecosystem — identifying and nurturing frontier-technology companies that will ultimately redefine contemporary mediums of transportation, safety archetypes, health standards and comprehensive human efficiency. More than just a venture fund, Hemi is a storyteller. To verbalize our mission, Hemi shares a vision with our founders, having our portfolio write the story of pioneering technology remolding our societies.


Hemi Ventures is a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm that invests in seed and early-stage companies. Hemi has backed frontier technology companies in the autonomous vehicle, artificial intelligence, robotics and biotech sectors. Hemi’s mission is to invest in the technologies that solve the big problems. As a fund, Hemi works hand in hand with entrepreneurs, empowering them to dream big and develop new ideas that can make the world better.


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