Relay Therapeutics Snags $400 Million in Funding to Scale Its Protein Motion Pipeline

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Cambridge, Mass.-based Relay Therapeutics secured $400 million in a Series C funding round that will be used to execute the company’s long-term strategy, including an expansion of discovery efforts and advancing existing developmental programs into the clinic.

In its announcement this morning, Relay also said a portion of the proceeds from the financing round will be used to “bolster its broad platform and diverse team.” The company has been on something of a hiring spree lately, filling out key roles in its leadership team. Earlier this month, the company brought on Mary Mader as vice president of chemistry and Mahesh Padval, as senior vice president of pharmaceutical drug development.

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Sanjiv Patel, chief executive officer of Relay Therapeutics, said the industry is at a “unique moment in the evolution of drug discovery.” That moment, Patel said, is where drug developers can see the promise of integrating “ever more powerful experimental and computational discovery tools to tackle previously undruggable protein targets.”

Relay’s goal is to build a dedicated drug discovery pipeline that is centered on protein motion. Company research has shown that proteins move physiologically in the body. Understanding that motion provides for stronger drug design, the company has posited. By tapping into structural biology, biophysics, computation, chemistry and biology the company said its drug discovery engine highlights the full mobility of a protein and ways in which protein motion regulates function. By combining those “disparate disciplines” Relay said it will be able to overcome challenges in drug design that plagued prior attempts. Its platform can help designed therapies against “validated but previously intractable targets,” the company said. According to the company, this approach will help develop therapeutics for multiple indications, with an early focus on oncology. To date, Relay said its initial discovery programs have led to the development of highly selective inhibitors of disease-causing proteins in genomically defined patient populations.

“The success of our early programs validates the potential of our platform to create breakthrough therapies that address a broad range of diseases,” Patel said in a statement. 

Last year Patel told BioSpace that until the invention of certain technologies, such as X-ray crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy, it had been cost-prohibitive to go after protein motion.

“But the cost has come down, so the experimental techniques and the increasing power of computation allow us for the first time to visualize proteins moving in the body and using that insight to design better drugs,” Patel told BioSpace last year.

The financing round was led by the SoftBank Vision Fund and included participation from additional new investors including Foresite Capital, Perceptive Advisors and Tavistock Group. Existing company investors who also participated in the round include GV (formerly Google Ventures), Casdin Capital, BVF Partners, EcoR1 Capital, Alexandria Venture Investments and an affiliate of D.E. Shaw Research.

Alexis Borisv, chairman of the Relay Therapeutics Board of Directors and a partner at Third Rock Ventures, pointed to the significant financing the company raised in this round and said it will allow the company to significantly scale and advance both its platform and its pipeline. Prior to the Series C, Relay Therapeutics had raised about $120 million since it launched in 2016, including a $63 million Series B financing round in December 2017.

We are thrilled by the strong support of our investors for our mission, vision and strategy,” Borisv said.

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