Arrakis Therapeutics Nabs $75 Million to Create a New Class of rSM Oncology Drugs

illustration of dna with dollar sign

Having established a first-in-industry RNA-targeted Small Molecule platform, with a $75 million infusion of new financing, Massachusetts-based Arrakis Therapeutics will focus its pipeline on oncology and genetically validated targets in other diseases.

The Waltham company said it completed a $75 million Series B financing round that will provide the funding to enable the company to realize its vision of creating a new class of medicines with RNA-targeted small molecules, or rSMs, Michael Gilman, the company’s chief executive officer said. Gilman, who is the chairman of the board of directors at Arrakis, has expanded his role as the company’s full-time CEO.

“We have built an end-to-end platform for the discovery of rSMs by creating or adapting tools that allow us to predict and validate the structure of RNA targets, locate druggable pockets, identify drug-like hits, and conduct medicinal chemistry programs to improve potency, selectivity, and safety. We are now operating this platform at scale to create a pipeline of utterly novel rSM medicines. I am excited to commit my full effort, along with the Arrakis team and our investors, to drive our discoveries into powerful new medicines for patients,” Gilman said in a statement.

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The $75 million financing will allow Arrakis to build a build a pipeline of novel RNA-targeted small molecules, with the goal of reaching clinical testing with one or more candidates, the company said. Arrakis said it will focus its internal drug development on oncology and genetically-validated targets in other disease areas. The company said the financing round will also allow it to continue to “refine and expand” its rSM discovery platform. That platform includes a high-throughput, comprehensive suite of computational tools, biophysical and cellular assays, and chemical libraries that are designed to create new small-molecule drugs for RNA targets, according to the company.

As Arrakis moves into its next stage of growth, the company plans to use its rSM drug discovery platform to discover novel RNA-targeted small molecules and advance lead candidates toward clinical testing.

The Series B funding round was co-led by venBio Partners and Nextech Invest. Financing participants included new investors Omega Funds, HBM Healthcare Investments, GV (formerly Google Ventures), WuXi AppTec Venture Fund, and Alexandria Venture Investments, as well as all existing investors. Those existing investors include Canaan Partners, Advent Life Sciences, Pfizer Ventures, Celgene Corporation, Osage University Partners and the estate of Henri Termeer.

Richard Gaster, principal at venBio Partners, said Arrakis is the clear leader in the emerging rSM field. He said venBio is excited to support Arrakis’ “differentiated strategy to transform the drug discovery toolkit to focus on RNA and open hundreds of important new targets to therapeutic intervention.”

Likewise, Jakob Loven, a partner at Nextech Invest, said there is an ever-increasing demand for more effective and better tolerated cancer drugs. That has created a fast-growing market. With RNA being a validated therapeutic target, Loven said “drugging RNA with conventional small-molecule medicines can provide cancer patients with options not achievable by any other means.”

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