New Orleans-based Obatala Science, a company that uses diversity-focused testing technology to help pharmaceutical companies bring new drugs to market faster, recently raised $3 million in funding from a group of investors.
The funding will be used to accelerate Obatala’s production, which includes alternatives to traditional trials in efforts to treat and prevent obesity, diabetes, cancer and regenerative medicine.
Founded five years ago by CEO Trivia Frazier, Obatala focuses on innovation in the field of medicine and medical testing, the often arduous and multi-year process that goes from cells to animals to tests to humans. Obatala has developed a method to simulate fat outside the body and predict human response. Dubbed “Fat-on-a-chip,” the technology enables testing on a wide variety of tissues, making the testing process faster and cheaper.
Moving to the beach
Frazier said the company has put the building blocks in place in previous financing rounds and is now looking to grow rapidly over the next two years. “We’ve had strong growth in our customer base and are pursuing more intellectual property licensing and putting together sales and marketing departments,” she said in a phone interview.
The company is currently located at the University of New Orleans’ Advanced Materials Research Institute. At UNO’s The Beach facility, she said they plan to move into a new location that will triple their current space and increase their workforce by 14 times over the next 18 months or so.
The latest round of funding, which Obatala calls a “Series A,” comes after a “seed” fund that will commercialize the company’s products, and être venture capital, led by women.
Jennifer Quan, a partner at être Venture Capital, points to recent developments in the drug and medical testing space that have increased the appeal of Obatala’s approach.
“The (Food and Drug Administration) recently suggested the need to improve prognoses by reducing the use of animal-derived tissues, while calling for (National Institutes of Health) greater diversity in testing,” she said in a statement. “Obatala Sciences’ range of human products are the right solutions designed for these market trends,” the funding said.
Developing Matrigel alternative
Other investors in this funding round include Ochsner Lafayette General Healthcare Innovation Fund II, which was launched three years ago to invest in emerging companies like Obatala. The fund is among a group of investors that invested in Obatala two years ago, which includes other Ochsner investment entities. Benson Capital Partners, part of Gail Benson’s investment empire, is investing, as are Elevate Capital Fund and The Hackett-Robertson-Tobe Group.
Another milestone the company is seeking is the approval of several new products intended to provide an alternative to a stem cell culture product called Matrigel, which has recently been widely used for testing in critical shortages.