Relay Therapeutics Lands $63M to Push Its Cancer Candidates Into Clinic
Published: Dec 14, 2017 By Mark Terry
Relay Therapeutics closed on a Series B financing round worth $63 million. The round was led by BVF Partners, with new investors GV (formerly Google Ventures), Casdin Capital, EcoR1 Capital and Section 32. Exciting investors Third Rock Ventures and Alexandria Venture Investments participated.
One of the most promising biotech startups to watch, Relay focuses on developing therapeutics based on protein motion. For some time, scientists were only able to visualize proteins as static molecules, while in reality they are in constant motion. Relay focuses on leveraging the ability to visualize protein movement using several different types of methods, which opens up opportunities for identifying more and better targets to module protein function.
The company’s platform uses several approaches, including X-ray crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy. But visualizing protein motion uses an enormous amount of data, so the company also has a computational component that allows it to handle the huge amount of data generated in visualizing that motion.
The funding will be used to advance the company’s pipeline of oncology candidates to the clinic. “Relay Therapeutics’ platform, focused on understanding protein motion, represents a paradigm shift in drug discovery,” said Kanishka Pothula, who joined Relay’s board of directors as part of the financing round. Pothula is managing director at BVF Partners. “The company’s pipeline has already delivered impressive early results and we’re excited to be a part of Relay’s future.”
In a recent interview with BioSpace, Deborah Palestrant, the company’s vice president of Corporate Development and Strategy, said that Relay has four current programs, mostly focused on oncology. “Two are advancing quite speedily toward the clinic. We’ve used those programs to grease the wheels on the platform, and the platform is being built and is generating quite a bit of chemical matter along the way.”
Relay launched in 2016 with $57 million in Series A financing from Third Rock Ventures and an affiliate of D.E. Shaw Research. The company’s chief executive officer and president is Sanjiv Patel. Prior to joining Relay, Patel was with Allergan in several roles, including leading Global Strategic Marketing and general management of Emerging Markets. He was most recently Allergan’s chief strategy officer.
Mark Murcko is Relay’s chief scientific officer. Up to November 2011, Murcko was chief technology officer and chair of the scientific advisory board of Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Before Vertex, he worked at Merck Sharpe & Dohme. He is also a senior lecturer in the Department of Biological Engineering at MIT.
Palestrant, as mentioned above, is vice president of Corporate Development and Strategy. Before joining Relay, she led the business development team at Editas Medicine. As a senior associate at Third Rock Ventures, she was involved in conceiving and launching Editas.
“Relay Therapeutics is the nexus of applying experimentation and computation to drug discovery and development,” said Krishna Yeshwant, general partner at GV, in a statement. “The core thesis of modeling protein movement is a compelling addition to rational drug design approaches, and we look forward to working with Relay’s experienced team as they continue to build out the platform.”