UNM Rainforest Innovations

Local startup Circular Genomics recently closed on a $4.5M series seed investment round for their innovative research on circular RNA to target effective treatment options for people struggling with depression and neurological disorders. The investment round was co-led by Cottonwood Technology Fund III and Tramway Venture Partners and included Mountain Group Partners and other individual investors.

The company’s approach to personalized treatment for depression predicts a patient’s sensitivity to anti-depressants by using circular RNA to measure the genes and proteins associated with pathways related to depression and other neurological disorders. With this information, doctors could make better informed decisions when determining effective medication options for patients.

Circular Genomics launched in February 2021 and soon after entered the Comcast Pitch Deck Competition where they won first place and a $10,000 prize. The annual event is sponsored by Comcast and serves as a platform for student entrepreneurs who want to start or are already operating an early-stage company. In addition to prizes, the competition also provides exposure to investors, business leaders, and entrepreneurs. In fact, Waneta Tuttle of Tramway Venture Partners and David Blivin of Cottonwood Technology Funds first learned about Circular Genomics at this event. Less than a year later both firms contributed to Circular Genomics’ seed funding round.

The technology that Circular Genomics is working to commercialize was developed by University of New Mexico researchers Dr. Nikolaos Mellios, assistant professor of UNM’s Neurosciences Department, and Dr. Alexander Hafez, who worked with Dr. Mellios as a doctoral candidate in biomedical science before graduating in January 2021 and launching the company. Their other collaborator, Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, is from the University of Texas Southwestern medical Center at Dallas. Circular Genomics licenses the technology from UNM Rainforest Innovations.

See Circular Genomics’ December 14, 2021 press release, “Circular Genomics Closes $4.5M Series Seed Investment,” reposted below and on the Circular Genomics website here: https://www.circulargenomics.com/circular-genomics-closes-4-5m-series-seed-investment

See also Kevin Robinson-Avila’s December 13, 2021 article, “Genetic diagnostics startup wins $4.5M venture investment,” on the Albuquerque Journal website here: https://www.abqjournal.com/2454082/genetic-diagnostics-startup-wins-45m-venture-investment-ex-unm-tec.html


Circular Genomics Closes $4.5M Series Seed Investment

December 14, 2021 – Circular Genomics, an Albuquerque, New Mexico-based circRNA company, is pleased to announce the closing of their $4.5M Series Seed investment round. The round was co-led by Cottonwood Technology Fund III and Tramway Venture Partners along with Mountain Group Partners. Other participants in the round include several individual investors.

Circular Genomics uses a form of RNA called ‘Circular RNA’ or ‘circRNA’ to help patients suffering from psychiatric and neurological disorders find the most effective personalized treatment. CircRNA, a novel and more robust set of biomarkers, is a very stable form of RNA found throughout the body that provides a real-time window into the human body and its current health. The company will initially target patients showing symptoms of depression and plans to expand into other brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s, PTSD, and Bipolar Disorder. By helping physicians and patients select the best therapeutic option, Circular Genomics aims to use this technology to help improve the lives of millions of people struggling with mental health disorders throughout the world.

Said Nikolaos Mellios, Co-founder and Chief Scientist of Circular Genomics and Assistant Professor at the University of New Mexico, “This funding is a welcome validation of the promise of our cutting-edge translational research in circRNAs and brain disorders. This will facilitate an important societal impact by introducing a novel biomarker that can be harnessed to fight the global depression epidemic. My work in RNA and neuroscience research has spanned decades and it’s rewarding to now witness the funding needed to take our initial products to market.”

Alexander Hafez, Co-founder, President, and Head of Clinical Operations, shared, “We already have the initial markers identified to bring first products to market. This funding will be used to set up our laboratory, further validate sample cohorts and algorithms and develop the first product. It will also support taking initial steps in the development of new assays and tests including an Alzheimer’s detection and prediction product.”

The rate of depression has more than tripled since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic reaching more than 27% of U.S. adults, compared to about 8% before the pandemic. Even before this meteoric rise in cases, depression was the leading cause of disability worldwide, costing the global economy over $1T per year. Beyond the economic cost of depression, the social and societal price includes increased hospitalization and increased risk of suicide amongst those with depression. Circular Genomics’ test aims to help meaningfully improve the timeliness and efficacy of therapeutic selection for patients suffering from this growing healthcare challenge.

David Blivin, Managing Partner, Cottonwood Technology Funds, said, “The rewarding part of what we do every day in seeking truly disruptive innovation at the pre-product and customer stage is being able to help launch technologies into the market that can change and improve the lives of so many. This is particularly true with our health sciences investments and Circular Genomics is a great example of such a company. We are honored to be included on the team of great science, execution, and investment partners.”

Said Waneta Tuttle, Managing Partner of Tramway Venture Partners, “I am constantly amazed at the disruptive innovation we discover in our own back yard. Circular Genomics joins a portfolio of companies we have found and supported here in Albuquerque that have the potential to change the landscape of personalized medicine. It’s exciting to support this team and technology and assist in bringing their unique products to market.”

About Circular Genomics: Circular Genomics is an innovative research and product development company focused on the impact circRNA can have on the lives of millions suffering from all forms of depression and neurological disorders. Initial products will be diagnostics to determine the best treatment protocol for an individual patient even before the onset of treatment and validate treatment effectiveness in days to weeks rather than months. For more information, please visit www.circulargenomics.com.

About Cottonwood Technology Funds: Cottonwood is based in Santa Fe, NM and Enschede, NL. The Funds focus on founding/seed stage disruption innovation based in the southwest U.S. and northern Europe. Historical areas of investment include photonics, robotics, advanced materials, energy, and health sciences. Representative investments include Skorpios, Respira, Exagen (XGN), Sarcos (STRC), Sencure, Flexiramics, Bayotech and Infinitum Electric. For more information, please visit www.cottonwood.vc.

About Tramway Venture Partners: Tramway is based in Albuquerque, NM and is an early-stage venture fund investing in biotech, medtech, and healthtech. Typically, Tramway invests in the first institutional round after incubators and angel investors. The best fit with its strategy is a company led by an outstanding management team, that has a significant intellectual property position, clear go to market strategies, and a large addressable market. For more information, please visit www.tramwayventures.com.

About Mountain Group Partners: Mountain Group Partners is a Nashville-based venture capital firm that invests in early-stage companies in the Life Sciences and Disruptive Technology sectors. The firm brings over 70 years of combined operational experience and has investments in more than 75 companies. Mountain Group takes hands-on approach to investing based upon this deep operational and industry experience and a desire to help bring transformational technologies to market. For more information, please visit www.mtngp.com.

For more information contact:

Alex Hafez – alex@circulargenomics.com; 505 677-0512
Dave Blivin – dave@cottonwood.vc; 505 412-8537
Waneta Tuttle – wtuttle@tramwayventures.com; 505 710-1463

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