Faeth Therapeutics is a new cancer metabolism company developing clinically tested nutrition control, therapeutics, and digital tools for the treatment of cancer. Named after the Welsh word for nutrition, the company is pioneering its work in cancer metabolism to support a radically new way to treat cancer. Launched with the backing of distinguished academic cancer researchers, Faeth’s published research shows that tailoring the right diet to each cancer patient can significantly impact the efficacy of clinically tested therapeutics for cancer.
Cancer cells adapt their metabolism to drive the uncontrolled cell division, tumor growth, metastasis, and the swelling of veins resembling the limbs of a crab for which they are named. Cancer cells must meet the need for rapid growth and survival while being able to respond rapidly to changes in the tumor microenvironment. This metabolic plasticity enables the processing of substrates in various ways and produces factors that contribute to cancer progression and resistance, resulting in metabolic heterogeneity and increasing the chance of resistance to monotherapies. Notably, metabolic alterations in precancerous lesions in response to nutritional stress or oncogenic signaling can drive tumorigenesis.
Metabolic interventions, particularly the management of nutrient availability, are becoming more attractive for cancer treatment. The thinking is that a tailored diet based on the metabolic specificity in individual patients would greatly facilitate cancer treatment in patients with oncogenic mutations, precancerous lesions, or cancers by arresting malignant transformation, increasing sensitivity to immunotherapy, decreasing drug resistance, and reducing adverse effects.
Faeth Therapeutics was formed by the convergence of three leading research teams. Discoveries in systemic metabolism, functional genomics, and tumor metabolism from, respectively, Lew Cantley, PhD, former director of the Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine and now a professor at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (and a Faeth co-founder); Greg Hannon, PhD, director of the Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Cambridge Institute; and Karen Vousden, PhD, chief scientist at CRUK, have collectively shown the power of targeted nutrient control to starve tumors.
Faeth’s scientific co-founders include Scott Lowe, PhD, chair of cancer biology and genetics at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD, a Pulitzer Prize-winning oncologist, and professor at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center. (Mukherjee is the author of two best-selling books, The Emperor of All Maladies and The Gene.)
On June 30, 2022, Faeth Therapeutics announced the closing of a $47-million Series A round of private financing led by S2G Ventures, bringing total funding to $67 million. The financing proceeds will be used to advance Faeth’s clinical trials that combine nutrient control, therapeutics, and digital tools to inhibit cancer metabolism. Seed round co-lead investors Khosla Ventures and Future Ventures also participated in the Series A, along with support from Digitalis, KdT Ventures, AgFunder, and Cantos.
“This Series A signifies the strength of our scientific foundation,” Mukherjee told GEN Edge via email. “In mice and organoid models, we’ve shown repeatedly that precisely controlling nutrient intake, based on each tumor’s genetic profile, has a synergistic effect with PI3Kα inhibition or various chemotherapies. Our early clinical trials have shown positive signals for our drug-diet combinations, and this funding will enable Faeth to enroll more cancer patients across several tumor types. Faeth is poised to make nutrient control the fifth pillar of cancer care, along with surgery, small-molecule drugs, biologics, and radiotherapy.”
To learn more about how and why Faeth Therapeutics is trying to move the needle on cancer treatment through precision nutrition, GEN Edge spoke with Anand Parikh, CEO and co-founder of Faeth Therapeutics.
GEN Edge: What problem is Faeth trying to solve?
Parikh: We are developing precision nutrition interventions that starve tumors of the nutrients they need to grow. If you look at the treatment modalities in oncology, there have only been three treatment modalities: surgery, radiotherapy, and drugs. We are building the fifth pillar of oncology, a brand new, complementary tool in a toolkit for oncologists that works in combination with those other factors to make them more effective and, in some cases, safer.
Every one of our interventions will be regulated as a therapeutic, and the element of each one of our interventions that is regulated as a therapeutic will be reimbursed as such. Then there are other aspects to our interventions that a traditional pharma company might call “beyond the pill interventions.” But we think of them as core to what we do.
We believe that precision nutrition is going to have this transformative effect on patient outcomes and the cancer field. There’s no fundamental reason why precision nutrition can’t. If you go into Memorial Sloan Kettering, Cedar Sinai, or MD Anderson, say that you have cancer, and ask what you can change about your diet, they’ll tell you nothing besides keeping your weight up. Basically, go eat ice cream. Now, if you were on a PI3K inhibitor, eating a ton of ice cream is going to potentially cause the drug not to work.
For example, with pancreatic cancer, we will look at what proteins are up- or down-regulated based on factors such as genotype, drug response, and the origin of the cancer. For that subset of pancreatic cancer, we can then see which nutrients we should modulate. We move that into cell line testing, rodent testing, and the clinic. We even develop companion diagnostics. We will take a biopsy of your tumor, analyze it against assays that we’ve developed, and say that you are a good fit for one of our interventions based on the RNA-seq data that we get from your tumor.
We aren’t saying that everyone should eat a ketogenic diet. That hasn’t worked. We would’ve figured this out if that were the best thing to do. I think Sid said in his book that cancer has been around for as long as humans have been on this planet. People have tried everything, but now with genomics, we can use science to target precisely the vulnerabilities of these different tumors. We plan on giving the precision nutrition diet away for free and eating into our margins to do that because we believe it’s the right thing to do.
GEN Edge: Where do the meals and software fit into the prescribed treatment?
Parikh: We take precision nutrition drugs, software, and diet and we wrap them together in this unified package. The meals and the software are “beyond the pill” interventions that will not be part of the IND. Those will be provided separately to patients and hopefully reimbursed by payers. Even if they’re not, we plan on giving it to patients for free. If we even come close to replicating the preclinical models in humans, we are going to get paid a lot of money for the therapeutic component of our intervention. The nutrition piece and the software piece cost are going to be relatively minor given the reimbursement of the therapy.
A physician will write the prescription for the Faeth intervention, and then the patient goes and picks up whatever portion of the intervention is considered therapeutic together with access to the Faeth software with a download code. You will log into the app and we schedule all your meals through there. You have access to a dietician through our software, and all the meals show up at your door. Cancer is a horrible thing. Pancreatic cancer is a death sentence. So, if we can give these patients something simple and holistic that either potentially could help with the curative outcome or can help them live longer then that would be quite an achievement.
GEN Edge: How will Faeth use the funds from the Series A?
Parikh: We’re stepping into the clinic because we need to prove two things. First of all, we need to show that it’s safe and tolerable. Secondly, we have to prove that we can modulate levels of nutrients in humans. We’re recruiting for clinical trials, which is a challenge for everyone in biotech. We’re recruiting for pancreatic cancer, metastatic colorectal cancer, and PI3K mutated cancer.
GEN Edge: Does Faeth partner with chefs and the restaurant industry?
Parikh: We are the only biotech company that I’m aware of in the world that’s got world-class chefs! We have a kitchen in Boulder, CO, that prepares every single meal and ships it off to the patients. Now, this actually isn’t that weird. For example, BioMarin works on phenylketonuria. Their big drug must be taken with a phenylalanine-restricted diet. But BioMarin doesn’t provide the diet—we do.
Another example is a patient with wild-type KRAS colorectal cancer who is being treated with bevacizumab. Having serine, glycine, and proline in the diet could be really bad, based on our preclinical studies. It’s not that obvious to most cancer patients how to deplete serine, glycine, and proline from your gut. It’s almost impossible to do at home. We create precision nutrition. The recommended diet could be different depending on the nutrient we’re trying to modulate. When you consider vitamins, lipids, sugars, and proteins, there are several hundred nutrients you can modulate—about 280 of them. So how you modulate each nutrient can create a slightly different precision meal.
GEN Edge: Will Faeth take its precision nutrition solution worldwide?
Parikh: The beautiful part about this intervention is it can scale globally. It’s not like a complicated immunotherapy protocol that requires ex vivo transfer. Maybe we won’t be able to deliver food to every patient, but with the software, we can guide them on that piece of it. Can we show you how to cook a diet free of serine, glycine, and proline? I think we can eventually do that. Can we scale everything and deliver it to everyone globally? Yes. Once we’ve repeated the process for a couple of programs and scaled it to everyone globally, I think we will have shown the path for others, and we will have changed the history of humanity’s fight against cancer.