Quantum ML Company Rahko Right Fit for Fast-Moving Odyssey
Odyssey Founder and CEO Gary D. Glick/Courtesy Odyssey Therapeutics
Less than one month after raking in $218 million in a Series A financing round, newly-launched Odyssey Therapeutics has acquired London-based machine learning company, Rahko for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition is expected to bolster Odyssey's drug development capabilities in immunology and oncology.
Gary D. Glick, founder and chief executive officer of Odyssey Therapeutics, told BioSpace that Rahko has been making a name for itself due to its combination of computational chemistry, machine learning and quantum computing, bolstering its capabilities to better understand the behavior of drugs.
Glick, a serial entrepreneur and an emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Michigan, stated that Rahko's technology only requires a small amount of data to train its model, which will give Odyssey an edge in discovering new molecules that can impact diseases that currently have few or no treatment options.
"What Odyssey now brings together is a combination of capabilities in computational chemistry and experienced drug hunters. With Rahko's technology, we'll be able to identify the best leads for our targets at greater speed and with higher accuracy," Glick said. "We have the ability to deliver better solutions and molecules that can unlock targets that cannot be addressed without these tools that we have."
Odyssey also plans to combine Rahko's quantum machine learning methods with functional genomics and other omics data to identify novel targets.
London-based Rahko launched in 2018 with a combination of physics and machine learning that well-positioned the company in one of the top hubs for artificial intelligence. The U.K. team will remain in London, where Glick said they will continue to thrive in the collaborative environment.
Glick learned of Rahko through a relationship with the CEO of another London-based company working on protein therapeutics. The CEO of the London company told Glick he was an angel investor in Rahko, which was primarily focused on small molecules, as opposed to the protein therapeutics his company was working with. Intrigued, Glick reached out to Rahko and began to talk with its leadership team about potential opportunities with Odyssey, which was in its earliest days at that time.
Initially, the conversation with Rahko centered on potential collaborations for a multi-target discovery deal. But, as those conversations evolved, it became apparent to Glick and the Rahko leadership that a merger was more appropriate.
Following the close of the Series A financing round, Odyssey and Rahko sealed the deal. Now, as Odyssey's data scientists merge the technologies with Rahko's, the company is in a better position to define what's possible in drug development.
Leonard Wossnig, co-founder and former CEO of Rahko who is now vice president of artificial intelligence at Odyssey Therapeutics, noted that in the past three years, the company's goal had been focused on "removing key bottlenecks in drug discovery" through the use of its quantum machine learning descriptors and models. The plan has been to create best-in-class lead identification and optimization of drug candidates.
"The current renaissance in medicinal chemistry, new drug discovery technologies, and an expanded understanding of the drivers of immune dysfunction and cancer represent precisely the kind of unprecedented opportunity our platform was designed to maximize," Wossing said in a statement.
Since its emergence, last month, Glick and the Odyssey leadership team have kept tight-lipped about their discovery programs. The company has seven active drug discovery programs in the areas of immunology and oncology. Glick anticipates that the first asset will transition into human testing in 2023 or early 2024 and that the targets are expected to be novel one where there has been little headway so far.
"We're not looking at rare or orphan diseases that may have 2,000 or 3,000 patients for our development. We want to service larger and broader autoimmune and cancer indications," Glick said.
Although Glick would not disclose the targets, he noted that there are multiple diseases in these two spaces that are in need of new therapeutics. As an example, he pointed to Crohn's disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease. There is no known cause of Crohn's, and it is a long process to diagnose. Disease flare-ups can dramatically disrupt the quality of life of patients. Glick was reminded of his son's struggles with being diagnosed and finding an acceptable treatment regimen to mitigate his Crohn's disease.
"In cancer, there are also many tumors that have few to no treatments," he said.
As Odyssey continues to get its new year underway with the acquisition, the company has moved its first program into lead optimization and plans to move two others toward optimization this year. Additionally, Odyssey expects to introduce a new oncology program into the portfolio.
Even while that is ongoing, Glick and his team are "rolling out efforts in target discovery" in oncology and immunology to identify the company's next wave.
Odyssey's rapid growth is also expected to continue throughout the year. In addition to the headcount from Rahko, the company already has about 100 employees. Glick anticipates onboarding up to 40 more employees this year.
"We have a team of incredible scientists with leadership experience here," Glick said. "From the leadership right down to the bench, we have an extraordinarily accomplished team of individuals."