Cutting-edge genome editing and machine learning help her develop drug therapies.
Bay Area-based Insitro is combining several cutting-edge areas of science to develop new drug therapies. Daphne Koller--Stanford’s first-ever professor of machine learning and formerly co-CEO of Coursera--founded the company in spring 2018 and soon secured $100 million in funding from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Jeff Bezos, and GV. Insitro uses Crispr genome editing to create unhealthy human cells in test tubes, and then applies hundreds of different interventions on the cells and tracks their effects. Based on the data collected, along with publicly available data sets, the startup develops treatments using machine learning. In April, Insitro announced a partnership with pharma giant Gilead Sciences to aid in the development of new therapies for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a liver disease that affects 16 million Americans. Insitro received $15 million up front and will earn royalties on any drug that its technology helps develop. --Kevin J. Ryan
She created a genetic cancer test for dogs. The resulting data could save people too.
Cancer, way too common in humans, is 10times more prevalent in dogs. Christina Lopes wants to help both problems at once. The Brazilian-born entrepreneur’s startup--strapped with $5 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz and Y Combinator, among others--created a genetic cancer test for canines. It detects gene mutations and helps veterinarians decide what kind of treatment is appropriate. Since launching last year, Palo Alto, California-based One Health has partnered with 70 animal hospitals throughout the U.S., helping hundreds of owners get their pets diagnosed and treated. Most important, these outcomes produce data that can then be used to develop therapies for humans. Lopes says a partner pharma company has made headway in developing a drug for cancer using One Health’s data. “We're already having impact on both sides of the leash,” she says. --Kevin J. Ryan
She’s upending telecom infrastructure by allowing devices to connect without a cell network or Internet connection.
Daniela Perdomo was struck with the idea that would lead to goTenna in 2012, when she saw New York City residents struggle with poor mobile connectivity during Hurricane Sandy. She teamed up with her brother, Jorge, to create a small cellphone accessory--essentially an antenna--and a messaging app that together allow users to connect without a cell network or internet connection. While goTenna didn’t invent so-called mesh networking, it was the first to offer a viable commercial application of the technology. After several years of selling a consumer version, in 2018 goTenna launched a more advanced version for first responders, the military, and other professional users. The company, which has raised some $40 million in venture capital, doesn’t aim to replace existing communications networks but rather connect the so-called “last mile”--people who are left out because of their location, their economic status, or circumstances such as natural disasters. --Tom Foster
Through shared “solar gardens,” she’s bringing solar power to those who can’t afford or aren’t set up for their own panels.
Most Americans can’t access solar energy: They live in apartment buildings, their roof faces the wrong way, or they just can’t afford to install the equipment. With Solstice, Steph Speirs’s Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup, people sign up for a piece of a “community solar garden” in their area, and receive a credit on their energy bill for the power its panels generate. For the average customer, this results in a 10 percent discount, or $150 to $200 in savings per year, according to the company. Solar garden developers pay Solstice to sign up customers for them and handle billing. Solstice's revenue grew fivefold in the past year, Speirs says, and the company is planning expansion into more states. “The way we’ve gotten our electricity hasn’t changed in over a hundred years, but it will change in the next ten,” she says. “Ultimately, our obsession is: ‘how do we make this so easy and so affordable that everyone can do it?’” --Sophie Downes
The 20-year Air Force vet’s startup analyzes satellite images in real time for smarter disaster response.
When Hurricane Michael barreled into the Florida coastline last October, Melanie Stricklan's startup, Slingshot Aerospace, sprang into action. The Austin, Texas-based company, which uses artificial intelligence to analyze satellite images in real time, quickly determined the best places to assemble triages and the safest routes to hospitals, then delivered that information to FEMA and other disaster-response agencies. Before co-founding Slingshot, Stricklan spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, with much of that time spent as a technician on surveillance aircraft that collected reams of data. “The analysis would come back weeks or sometimes even a year later,” she says. “Faster results could have saved lives and produced very different outcomes.” Today, Slingshot’s A.I. can deliver results in minutes. The company’s insurance customers can make coverage determinations and get flood victims their money quickly; other clients include the Department of Homeland Security, NASA, and--yes--the Air Force. --Kevin J. Ryan