Third Rock Ventures Launches $45 Million Bay Area Startup Revolution Medicines to Squeeze More Drugs From Nature

Published: Feb 05, 2015

Third Rock Ventures Launches $45 Million Bay Area Startup Revolution Medicines to Squeeze More Drugs From Nature
February 4, 2015
By Riley McDermid, Breaking News Sr. Editor

Perennial biotech venture capital favorites Third Rock Ventures is doubling down on synthetic chemistry, announcing Wednesday that it has poured $45 million into a Series A round for startup Revolution Medicines in attempt to get in early on antifungal, complex molecular technology.

Revolution said it will use the money to build out its 12-employee business, currently based in Redwood City, Calif., as well as focus on building its pipeline of antifungal drugs centered around the reengineered version of potent agent amphotericin B.

The new company boasts a high-profile advisory board, including board chairman, Martin D. Burke, professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and early career scientist of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Revolution said in a press release that Burke invented a “transformative method for synthesizing original compounds that are pharmaceutically optimized analogues of complex natural products.” As such, the company has inked an exclusive license agreement with the University of Illinois to practice and expand this technology, and is pursuing a rapid clinical development path with its lead antifungal program that originated in Burke’s laboratory.

“With this major advance in chemical synthesis, we now have the opportunity to unlock the full medical benefits of natural products that have been selected through a billion years of evolutionary pressure,” said Revolution Medicines CEO Mark Goldsmith.

“Marty is a remarkably inventive chemical biologist, and Revolution Medicines is working closely with him in his role as scientific advisory board chairman to exploit his breakthroughs for industrial-scale drug discovery through redesigning complex molecules,” he added. “Our strategy should produce high-impact treatments for serious infections and non-infectious diseases, among them our lead product candidates for patients with life-threatening fungal infections.”

Amphotericin B has long spooked scientists because of its propensity for liver damage as a side effect, but Revolution told the San Francisco Business Times that it has found a way to filter out toxic side effects while keeping it effective against disease.

"That's a remarkable advance, empowered by the synthetic chemistry platform," Goldsmith, who is also a partner at Third Rock, said "Without the technology, that work would not have been possible."

That particular brand of fiddling with complex molecules in an attempt to synthesize the perfect therapeutic approach will be a hallmark of Revolution’s scientific approach, Goldsmith told the paper.

"That complexity is there for a reason," Goldsmith said. "Now we can harness that complexity and convert interesting molecules into interesting drug candidates. We do think the opportunity is enormous."

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