Artificial Intelligence, BioPharma

RNA therapies startup Ochre Bio lands $30M to take on chronic liver disease

Ochre Bio’s Series A financing will support development of RNA therapies for chronic liver disease. Longer term, the company aims to develop therapies that regenerate organs in patients, potentially avoiding the need for organ transplants.

Ochre Bio co-founders Quin Wills, chief scientific officer (left), and Jack O’Meara, CEO (right). Photo by Business Wire.


A biotech startup developing RNA therapies for liver disease by running tests in live human livers has raised $30 million to identify a drug candidate to test in real live humans.

Ochre Bio conducts its research with donor livers. These livers aren’t suitable for organ donation, but they can still be used for drug research. These livers are kept “alive” for days at a time by machines that mimic physiological conditions. Using machine learning, the biotech analyzes the liver data in order to identify and validate targets for its drugs. Ochre describes its approach as “deep phenotyping.” The company is developing therapies to treat chronic liver disease.

So far, Ochre says its work has generated data from more than 1,000 diseased human livers. With the Series A round of financing announced Monday, Oxford, U.K-based Ochre plans to turn insights from its research into RNA drug candidates. Those drugs will be tested in livers kept alive in New York. Last year, the company opened Liver ICU, a research site at BioLabs@NYULangone, a research incubator. Ochre says results from this “human liver preclinical testing” in 2023 will inform which therapies will advance into clinical tests in 2024. The research will also be used to expand its research to more liver diseases. Longer term, the startup aims to put a dent in the need for donor organs, a growing problem as demand increasingly outstrips supply.

“Humans are the model throughout our R&D, from large scale genomic atlases to testing our therapies in donor human livers maintained on machines,” co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Quin Wills said in a prepared statement. “Our pipeline helps us converge on therapies that regenerate poor quality donor livers, so more people have access to better quality organs, faster. In the future, we have a goal to directly regenerate organs in patients, removing the need for organ transplants altogether.”

Ochre Bio was founded in 2019. The startup is a graduate of the Y Combinator accelerator. The new funding round announced Monday follows a $9.6 million seed financing last year led by Khosla Ventures. That firm invested in the latest financing, which included participation from Hermes-Epitek, Backed VC, LifeForce Capital, Selvedge, AixThera, LifeLink. The new financing also added individual investors Alice Zhang, CEO of Verge Genomics; Kristen Fortney, CEO of BioAge; and Marty Chavez, chairman of Recursion Pharmaceuticals.