Warp Drive Bio Comes Out of Stealth Mode with Drugs for Undruggable Cancers and Brings 12 Cancer Experts on Board

Warp Drive Bio Comes Out of Stealth Mode with Drugs for Undruggable Cancers, Brings 12 Cancer Experts on Board
November 9, 2015
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Cambridge, Mass.-based Warp Drive Bio announced today that it has identified and is developing a new technology platform that is able to target previously undruggable cell types. In addition to developing the technology, it will focus on RAS mutations in cancer. As part of that endeavor, it has created a RAS Advisory Board (RAB) made up of 12 world-leading experts.

Warp Drive Bio was founded in 2012 as part of a strategic partnership with Sanofi and financing from Third Rock Ventures and Greylock Partners. The company’s new platform is called Small Molecule-Assisted Receptor Targeting (SMART). It’s estimated that 80 to 90 percent of human proteins are not reachable by small molecule-type drugs. The new technology appears to overcome that problem, which has the potential to totally transform drug development.

“That solves what many people believe is the largest single problem in drug discovery, and that is the vast majority of human targets are untouchable by small molecules,” said Gregory Verdine, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Warp Drive Bio to BizJournals. “They are untouchables because (the proteins) lack a surface feature called a pocket required (for molecules) to nestle themselves into. Only 10 percent of human proteins have a pocket, and if it doesn’t have a pocket, it’s undruggable.”

SMART basically utilizes other proteins in the cell, making them change shape that creates additional surface area so the drug molecule can attach to the protein.

They will now use SMART to focus on RAS, which has a very high mutation rate in cancer. The company indicates it is developing four drugs. Although details are still unreleased, some of the drugs’ mechanism selectively target the proteins corrupted by the RAS mutation. The other drug candidates will focus on other RAS proteins.

“At this point we validated that the modality can be reengineered and we have multiple compound series in the discovery process that are being (moved) forward,” Verdine told BizJournals.

The company, as stated earlier, also created a RAS Advisory Board. “We are thrilled to have attracted some of the world’s leading experts in cancer research as we grow our understanding of our SMART modality and its potential application for novel RAS therapy,” said Laurence Reid, Warp Drive Bio’s chief executive officer in a statement. “The experience that each of our RAB members brings to the company will be invaluable in the breakthrough work we are doing in targeting RAS, among the most recalcitrant of human oncogenes.”

Inaugural members of the RAB are:

Barbara Weber, co-chair of the RAB and currently entrepreneur-in-residence at Third Rock Ventures.

Dafna Bar-Sagi, senior vice president, vice dean for science, chief scientific officer and professor of biochemistry and molecular pharmacology at New York University.

Channing Der, a Kenan distinguished professor of pharmacology at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill and a UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center member.

Keith Flaherty, an associate professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School and director of the Termeer Center for Targeted Therapy at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center.

Levi Garraway, associate professor medicine in the department of medical oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School.

Jay Groves, professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley (CAL) .

Mark Philips, professor of medicine, cell biology and pharmacology at New York University.
Julien Sage, associate professor for pediatrics and genetics at Stanford University.

David Tuveson, professor and deputy director of the Cancer Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

And finally, Gregory Verdine, founder, president and Chief scientific officer of Warp Drive Bio. He is the Erving professor of chemistry at Harvard University and Harvard Medical School.

Back to news