- Relay Therapeutics, a biotech company that’s trying to capture the motion of protein to develop better cancer drugs, just raised $US63 million.
- The series B funding round was led by BVF Partners, with Bill Maris’s Section 32 and GV.
- The company hopes to get its first drug into clinical trials by 2019.
A startup that wants to find new treatments for cancer by looking at the way proteins move just raised $US63 million.
Relay Therapeutics, a company that got its start in 2016, is using computation tools to capture movies that show proteins while they’re moving. Proteins, especially those that are mutated, play a critical role in conditions like cancer.
The hope is that by looking at how the proteins move in their “natural state” – as opposed to just looking at the way the protein is structured in a static moment – the company will be able to find cancer treatments that have otherwise been elusive.
The latest funding round was led by BVF Partners, with new investors GV (formerly Google Ventures) and Bill Maris’s Section 32, joining as well. Existing investors Third Rock Ventures and Alexandria Venture Investments also invested as part of the round. Combined with the Series A Relay raised in 2016, the company has raised $US120 million.
The investors in the round come from traditional biotech and technology backgrounds, a similar breakdown to how the company thinks about the work it’s doing to look at protein motion.
“We sit in the center of two unstoppable forces,” Relay CEO Sanjiv Patel told Business Insider. The first is that computational power is getting better all the time, he said, and the second is the experimental technologies that are changing the way companies can do drug discovery, including imaging tools like room-temperature X-ray crystallography.
Michael Pellini, who recently joined Section 32 after working at Foundation Medicine, a company that collects genetic information about a person’s tumours, said that the investment in Relay related to the challenges he saw when doctors tried to use that genetic information to treat the cancer, but the right kind of drugs just didn’t exist.
“The most disappointing finding that surfaced from the evaluation of the patient’s case is when we found gene alterations that were almost certainly driving the cancer but we knew there were no successful drugs targeting those alterations or targeting that pathway because until this point in time they had been undruggable,” Pellini said. “It’s personally very exciting to work with a company that is focused on these great challenges in cancer care and possibly even going beyond oncology.”
The funding, Patel said, will help Relay get their first drugs based on the moving protein tech into clinical trials by 2019.
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