Science & Enterprise subscription

Donate to our blog

Your support will help Science & Enterprise continue to provide science news for business people and business news for scientists.

Clinical Trial Testing Live Bacteria as Acne Treatment


(Kjerstin Michaela Haraldsen, Pixabay)

20 September 2016. A clinical trial is recruiting participants to test a product with live skin bacteria as a treatment for adult acne. The intermediate- and late-stage trial, testing a therapy made by biotechnology company AOBiome LLC in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is also using mobile devices with participants for remote data collection.

AOBiome develops skin care cosmetics and treatments seeking to reintroduce bacteria that oxidize ammonia eliminated from the skin microbiome through modern hygienic practices. Ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, says the company, convert ammonia and urea from perspiration to nitrite and nitric oxide. Nitrite helps control the growth of other microbes, including pathogens, while nitric oxide is a signaling molecule that helps regulate inflammation.

Acne, known medically as acne vulgaris, is a chronic inflammatory condition that blocks hair follicles and sweat glands, primarily on the face, chest and back, affecting some 80 million people in the U.S., according to data cited by the company. AOBiome says eliminating commensal or natural bacteria from the skin also removes the nitric oxide leaving the skin as a pro-inflammatory environment. The product tested in the clinical trial, code-named B244, is a topical spray that applies ammonia-oxidizing bacteria to the skin thus restoring the natural microbial balance controlling skin inflammations such as acne.

The intermediate- and late-stage clinical trial plans to recruit 372 individuals age 18 and older with mild to moderate cases of acne. Participants will be randomly assigned to spray either B244 or a placebo to the face twice a day for 12 weeks. The primary outcome measures for the study are counts of inflammatory acne lesions on the skin as well as improvement on a quality of life index scale. The trial is also evaluating the safety and tolerability of treatments, and measuring skin microbes on the face every 4 weeks.

The trial has another notable feature, the use of telemedicine for data collection. AOBiome is partnering with Science 37, a contract research organization in Culver City, California that offers remote data-gathering service known as Network Oriented Research Assistant, or Nora. The service connects clinical trial participants at their homes to Science 37, in this case to collect counts of acne lesions and other measures, with smartphones provided for the study. Previously, trial participants, or dermatology patients in general, would need to travel to doctors’ offices to evaluate progress.

AOBiome is testing B244 in clinical trials with other inflammatory conditions such as dermatitis, rosacea, and allergic rhinitis or hay fever. AOBiome is a 3-year old enterprise, whose founders include David Whitlock, an MIT-trained chemical engineer, who told the Boston Globe last year he hasn’t showed since the year 2000. Whitlock instead prefers to maintain microbial balance on his skin with the company’s consumer skin care products, marketed under the brand name Mother Dirt.

Read more:

*     *     *

Teva Licenses Pain Relief Antibody for $1.25 Billion

Nerve cells illustration


20 September 2016. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries is licensing from biotechnology company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals an engineered antibody that targets proteins supporting pain signals. The agreement could bring Regeneron, in Tarrytown, New York as much as $1.25 billion in licensing fees and R&D reimbursements, more in milestone and royalty payments.

The deal involves fasinumab, a synthetic antibody that addresses a specific protein, nerve growth factor, or NGF supporting development and survival of nerve cells transmitting pain, temperature, and touch sensations. New drugs are needed to replace opioid pain relievers responsible for a growing epidemic of abuse and overdoses. The companies cite data from market research company Decisions Resources Group that 30 million people in the U.S. live with osteoarthritis pain, and a similar number with chronic low back pain, many at moderate to severe levels.

Fasinumab binds to NGF and blocks its signals, reducing pain sensitization. Regeneron says its preclinical tests show other nerve cell signals are not affected by the drug. Other preclinical tests, however, show fasinumab and similar experimental drugs addressing NGF have toxic effects on the sympathetic nervous system that activates fight-or-flight responses in some lab animals. Those results led FDA in December 2012 to suspend testing of anti-NGF drugs with humans until the toxicity questions were resolved.

FDA later lifted its suspension, allowing Regeneron in mid-2015 to begin an intermediate- and late-state clinical trial of fasinumab with individuals experiencing moderate or severe knee or hip pain from osteoarthritis. The company reported its first results of the trial in May 2016, showing participants receiving 4 doses of fasinumab over 12 weeks, with pain measured on a 10-point standard rating scale at 16 weeks. The results show participants receiving fasinumab at 4 different dosage levels experienced less pain compared to baseline measures than individuals receiving a placebo. Occurrences of adverse events — joint pain, tingling sensations, numbness, and swelling — were similar for treatment and placebo groups.

The deal calls for Regeneron to lead further development of fasinumab and commercialization in the U.S., while both companies will share sales and marketing responsibilities in the U.S. Teva, based in Israel, will lead commercialization of fasinumab outside the U.S., except for Japan, Korea and 9 other Asian countries where Regeneron and Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corp. already have a licensing agreement. China is not one of 9 countries.

The agreement gives Regeneron an initial licensing fee of $250 million from Teva, as well as payments of about $1 billion covering continuing research and development of fasinumab. Regeneron is also eligible for development and regulatory milestone payments, and royalties based on net sales.

Regeneron is recruiting participants for intermediate- and late-stage clinical trial of fasinumab among individuals with chronic lower back pain, as well as a long-term safety and efficacy study of the drug with people having knee or hip pain from osteoarthritis.

Read more:

*     *     *

FDA Holding Opioid Overdose App Competition

Narcan nasal spray

Narcan nasal spray (Adapt Pharma Ltd)

19 September 2016. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is seeking a smartphone app that can quickly find a source of the antidote drug naloxone for someone having an opioid overdose. The competition has a top prize of $40,000, with registration available 23 September through 7 October 2016, on, the U.S. government’s portal for crowd-sourcing challenges.

FDA, working with other federal agencies, wants to make it easier for people to find naloxone if they need it for someone having an opioid overdose. Opioids work by reducing the intensity of pain signals to the brain, particularly regions of the brain controlling emotion, which reduces effects of the pain stimulus. Examples of leading opioid prescription pain medications are hydrocodone, oxycodon, morphine, and codeine.

One of the collaborating agencies, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or Samhsa, says some 3.8 million people in the U.S. age 12 or older in 2015 were current misusers of pain relievers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 28,000 people in the U.S. died from an opioids in 2014, with 78 overdose deaths occurring every day. Since 1999, says CDC, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids, including heroin, more than tripled.

Naloxone is available by prescription in injectable form, including a self-injector device that can also be administered by care givers or family members. As reported by Science & Enterprise in November 2015, FDA approved a nasal spray formulation of naloxone, known as Narcan developed by Adapt Pharma.

While naloxone still requires a prescription, many states and communities are making the drug as readily available as possible, until an over-the-counter version of the drug is approved and on the market. The competition seeks to improve accessibility further by tapping into ideas from the information technology, entrepreneurial, medical, scientific, and public health communities for harnessing the power of mobile technology to connect laypersons including even bystanders to naxolone sources if they’re in the presence of someone experiencing an opioid overdose.

Peter Lurie, FDA’s associate commissioner for public health strategy and analysis, says in an agency statement, “Mobile phone applications have been developed to educate laypersons on how to recognize an overdose and administer naloxone, and to connect bystanders with individuals in need of other medical services, such as CPR. To date, however, no application is available to connect carriers of naloxone with nearby opioid overdose victims.”

FDA instituted a tight timetable for the competition. Participants can register for the challenge beginning on Friday, 23 September on the U.S. government’s crowd-sourcing portal,, with registration open to 7 October. Registrants will be given access to information on the opioid epidemic, approved formulations of naloxone, recommendations for the safe and appropriate use of naloxone, and FDA guidance on mobile medical applications. The agency also plans a two-day coding event on the FDA White Oak campus in Sliver Spring, Maryland and virtually, on 19-20 October for participants to develop their apps further, including prototypes.

Challenge participants will then have to 7 November to refine their code and submit a video demonstrating their prototypes, as well as a summary description of the app. A panel from FDA, Samhsa, and National Institute on Drug Abuse at NIH will evaluate submissions, with the highest scoring entry receiving the top prize of $40,000. Participants may also apply for Small Business Innovation Research support from National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Read more:

*     *     *

Drug Shown to Improve Cell Energy, Muscle Function

Hands of older person

(Steve Buissinne, Pixabay)

Updated 22 September 2016. Results of a clinical trial show an experimental drug boosts cellular energy and improves skeletal muscle functions of older adults. Findings from the trial testing the drug elamipretide developed by Stealth BioTherapeutics in Boston were presented on Saturday at a meeting of the Heart Failure Society of America in Orlando, Florida.

Stealth BioTherapeutics develops therapies for disorders related to malfunctioning mitochondria, the energy source in cells. When mitochondria do not function properly, cells have reduced energy and produce excess oxidation, putting increased stress and causing damage to cells and associated byproducts, including nucleic acids and proteins. Malfunctions in mitochondria can affect a range of different organs and functions, and are associated with disorders such as heart failure, kidney injury, and skeletal muscle diseases.

Stealth Bio developed the drug elamipretide as a systemic drug, given by injection under the skin or intravenous infusion. Elamipretide is designed to penetrate cell and outer mitochondrial membranes and boost cardiolipin, a natural oil in the body that provides stability to enzymes involved in producing cellular energy. The company says its preclinical studies show elamipretide penetrates these cell membranes, promotes energy production, and reduces oxidative stress.

The clinical trial, conducted in Seattle, recruited 40 individuals age 60 to 85 showing evidence of mitochondrial dysfunction. Participants were randomly assigned to receive an infusion of elamipretide or a placebo, then tested for mitochondrial energy production after 2 hours, the study’s primary outcome measure.

The researchers assessed mitochondrial energy with a test called ATPmax that measures levels of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, and oxygen in muscles, determined by a hand muscle fatigue test. Adenosine triphosphate stores and transports chemical energy in cells, and is an indicator of mitochondrial function.

The findings show participants receiving elamipretide increased their mitochondrial energy output by 30 percent, compared to results from before the infusions. Placebo recipients, however, increased their cell energy rates by 10 percent. The results also show elamipretide was well tolerated with no adverse effects associated with the treatments.

Kevin Conley, a physiology professor at University of Washington and one of the trial investigators says in a company statement that the change in energy functions from elamipretide, “is comparable to the improvement seen in my previous studies of endurance training, exercising three times a week for six months ….”

Stealth Bio has other trials underway testing elamipretide for additional skeletal muscle disorders related to mitochondrial dysfunction, as well as heart failure, and acute kidney injury. As reported in Science & Enterprise, the company is developing a form of elamipretide for eye disorders resulting from mitochondrial malfunctions, also being tested in clinical trials.

Read more:

*     *     *

St. Jude, Sanger Institute to Share Genomic Databases

Jinghui Zhang

Jinghui Zhang (St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital)

Updated: 19 September 2016. A spokesperson quotes Jinghui Zhang, St. Jude hospital’s computational biology chair in an e-mail to Science & Enterprise, “The agreement will allow for an online comparison of pediatric cancer data and adult cancer data on a genomic data portal.”

16 September 2016. Two research institutes  — St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute — will share their databases on cancer genomics with the other institution’s scientists. Both of the databases are made available to researchers worldwide over the Web.

St. Jude hospital, in Memphis, maintains its ProteinPaint database, a repository of more than 1,900 pediatric cancer mutations from 1,856 patients. ProteinPaint charts mutations of individual genes that alter their instructions for encoding proteins. Results are displayed with graphical tools that are not often available in current visualization programs. Details provided include mutation type, frequency in cancer sub-type and location in the protein domain.

As reported in Science & Enterprise in December 2015, ProteinPaint is based on data from Pediatric Cancer Genome Project, a joint effort with Washington University in St. Louis, and National Cancer Institute’s TARGET database, short for Therapeutically Applicable Research to Generate Effective Treatments. Pediatric Cancer Genome Project collects genomic data on cancerous and healthy cells from more than 800 children. TARGET collects genomic data on childhood cancers from a network of participating researchers. ProteinPaint also stores data from other published studies.

The Sanger Institute in Hinxton, U.K. offers its Catalogue of Somatic Mutations In Cancer, or Cosmic, a database with more than 4.1 million mutations in human cells not inherited from germ line, or sperm and egg interactions. The database includes data derived from scientific literature, collected and curated by expert reviewers. Cosmic also captures data from systematic molecular screening studies that offer disease profiles across the entire genome.

Under the agreement, the two institutions will maintain their separate databases, but provide each partner organization with regular updates and data exchanges to ensure researchers have the latest data for all areas of cancer. Jinghui Zhang, who chairs St. Jude’s computational biology department, says in a joint statement. “We want this to be the definitive resource for genomic information for the pediatric cancer community.”

Simon Forbes, who heads the Cosmic program at the Sanger Institute adds that the collaboration should provide researchers with more insights into pediatric cancers. “Many of our users are supporting diagnostic and pharmaceutical discovery,” Forbes notes, “and in this way we hope to support future improvements for these young patients.”

The following video tells more about ProteinPaint.

Read more:

*     *     *

Lung Tissue Grown in Lab from Stem Cells

Engineered and natural adult lung tisue

Bioengineered lung-like tissue, on left, resembles adult human lung, right (UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center)

16 September 2016. Researchers in regenerative medicine grew three-dimensional pieces of human lung tissue in lab cultures starting from stem cells. The team from University of California in Los Angeles, led by Brigitte Gomperts, professor of pediatric hematology and oncology, published its findings in yesterday’s (15 September) issue of the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

Gomperts and colleagues were seeking better tools to test drugs for lung diseases, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis that are difficult to simulate in the lab, but anticipate lab-grown lung tissue to be used in design of personalized medicines and eventually regenerating entire organs. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a chronic, progressive lung disease, affecting 13 to 20 per 100,000 people, usually between age 50 and 70. The disorder results in fibrosis or scar tissue building up in the lungs, limiting the ability of lungs to transfer oxygen to the blood stream.

The researchers adopted a bottom-up strategy of building lung tissue. The team took adult but pluripotent stem cells from adult human lungs, which they coated on beads made of hydrogel, a water-based biocompatible polymer. The coated hydrogel beads were placed in tiny wells of cell-growing lab cultures, about 7 millimeters across, resembling air sacs in the lungs.

In a bioreactor, the stem cells differentiated, or transformed, into lung tissue cells that self-assembled into pieces of lung tissue the researchers call organoids. Visual microscopic inspections by the team show a sharp resemblance between the engineered and natural adult lung tissue samples.

The researchers also adapted their cell regeneration techniques to produce lung tissue with scarring similar to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, by adding transforming growth factor-beta1, a protein associated with proliferation of cells, including scar tissue. “While we haven’t built a fully functional lung,” says Gomperts in a UCLA statement, “we’ve been able to take lung cells and place them in the correct geometrical spacing and pattern to mimic a human lung.”

The authors believe they’ve developed a reproducible system for generating lung tissue in the lab for disease modeling and drug testing, including therapies designed for specific patients. “This is the basis for precision medicine and personalized treatments,” Gomperts adds.

Gomperts and several co-authors have taken steps to protect the intellectual property rights for this technology.

Read more:

*     *     *

Challenge Seeks Health Technology Start-Ups

Stroke rehab jacket

Jacket and gloves with sensors for stroke rehabilitation (New York University)

15 September 2016. A new competition is seeking start-up enterprises worldwide to pitch their ideas for solving health care issues with technology directly to life sciences industry leaders. The deadline for entries in the HealthTech Industry Challenge sponsored by the professional services company Accenture is 21 October 2016.

Accenture says the challenge aims to foster new companies with innovative technologies for health care and life science problems, particularly those with ideas that can disrupt current business practices, as well as provide a way of getting their ideas in front of industry leaders. “With the launch of the Accenture HealthTech Innovation Challenge,” says Anne O’Riordan, senior managing director of Accenture Life Sciences in a company statement, “Accenture will identify emerging innovators and disruptors and act as a catalyst by connecting them with the companies who can fast-track market impact.”

The competition calls for companies in four categories that address health care or life science issues:

Improve access to health care, particularly those underserved by the current system or in remote populations

Provide services that improve adherence to treatments and outcomes, by capturing real-world evidence, particularly from non-traditional data streams

Deliver the right health information and services at the right time to patients, families, and caregivers, particularly when a better understanding of lifestyle needs is needed to optimize care

Improve privacy and security of an individual’s health and lifestyle information, while also improving care and enabling information sharing

Accenture is encouraging early-stage companies to participate, particularly those not well-established in the health care or life sciences industries. Nonetheless, companies taking part should have a product well enough along to demonstrate, and be willing to share access to the product under a non-disclosure agreement. Among the factors judged is the extent to which access to senior-level industry executives would have a meaningful impact on company growth.

Entries to the challenge are accepted by Accenture until 21 October 2016. An initial judging will determine regional competition participants by 4 November, with those participants announced on 11 November. The regional pitching sessions are held on 25 November in London, U.K. and 1 December in New York, where semi-finalists will be selected. Judges are expected to include senior executives from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Cardinal Health, Novartis, and other enterprises.

The top entries in each of the four categories will be selected from the semi-finalists at the final judging round taking place at the StartUp Health Festival, 9 January 2017 in San Francisco, that coincides with the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. The top-rated entries will gain exposure and access to leading industry executives, as well as be offered places in StartUp Health’s Launchpad program. That program includes industry training and mentoring, participation in a community of entrepreneurial peers, a chance to promote one’s company in the industry, and access to networks of potential investors and customers. No monetary prizes are given.

“This program aims to help health care start-ups advance their business agenda and infuse fresh ideas across the system to improve patient care,” adds Brian Kalis, Accenture’s managing director of digital health. Kalis says Accenture forecasts start-up funding for digital health care, such as wearables and virtual health, will reach $6.5 billion by the end of next year.

Read more:

*     *     *

Small Business Grant Funds Natural Dyes Crop Research

Indigo dye

Indigo dye (Stony Creek Colors)

15 September 2016.  A company making natural dyes for clothing and a plant science research center are discovering genomic processes to improve plants producing indigo, the dye giving blue jeans its color. The 1-year project joining Stony Creek Colors Inc. in Goodlettsville, Tennessee and Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis is funded by a $224,700 grant from National Science Foundation.

Stony Creek Colors produces dyes made from plants, as alternatives to most dyes today made with chemicals derived from petroleum. The company is also creating a supply chain for natural dyes, working with growers, textile mills, and clothing brands to meet today’s production specifications and build consumer preference for more sustainable fabrics. This supply chain begins with growers producing crops for natural dyes that need tools to improve yields and profitability.

Among Stony Creek’s offerings is indigo, which in the 18th and 19th centuries was derived from plants, making it major cash crop for of its blue color dye. Nearly all indigo dyes today, however, are made from petroleum-based and other hazardous chemicals. While some traditional and artisanal methods still produce natural indigo dyes, their quality is inconsistent and the small quantities produced make these dyes too expensive for manufacturers.

The project calls for Stony Creek and Donald Danforth Plant Science Center to develop analytical tools to better understand molecular features of Persicaria tinctoria, the plant from which indigo dyes are derived, to produce indican, a precursor chemical to indigo. The work includes a genomic mapping of Persicaria tinctoria, to connect the plant’s genetic characteristics to high- and low-yielding crops.

In addition, the research team will develop a testing device to quickly measure the presence of indican in crop leaves in the fields. Testing processes today require harvesting leaves from the plants and analyzing them in the lab.

“Currently, the measurement of indigo yield is done by harvesting plants or by chemical analysis of precursors,” says Noah Fahlgren, Danforth Center bioinformatics director in a statement,  “both of which are time-consuming and difficult to do on large populations, so the ability to use non-destructive techniques to measure or estimate indigo yield will be particularly important to enable rapid screening of breeding materials.” Fahlgren is one of the principal investigators on the project.

“Higher yielding and more consistent indigo crops will allow our bio-based colors to reach deeper into the industrial marketplace,” adds Sarah Bellos, CEO and founder of Stony Creek Colors, “ultimately replacing more of the petroleum based-chemicals currently imported by the textile industry with a domestically grown, plant-derived solution.” Stony Creek plans to commercialize the research results into higher-yielding seeds spread over 26,000 acres of farm land in the southeast United States.

National Science Foundation funded the project from its Small Business Technology Transfer, or STTR, program that sets aside research money for collaborations between small businesses and academic or research institute labs.

Read more:

*     *     *

Stem Cells Aid Motor Functions in Spinal Cord Patients

Frozen stem cells

Frozen cells removed from storage in liquid nitrogen tanks (Asterias Biotherapeutics)

14 September 2016. First results from a clinical trial show stem cell treatments help restore some arm and hand functioning in patients with complete cervical spinal cord injury. Edward Wirth, chief medical officer of Asterias Biotherapeutics, presented the findings today at a meeting of the International Spinal Cord Society in Vienna, Austria. The early- and intermediate-stage trial is testing the safety of different dose levels of treatments derived from human embryonic stem cells, but is also tracking any restoration of motor functions in the patients’ arms and hands.

Spinal cord injuries are usually caused by a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine that bruises or tears into spinal cord tissue, resulting in fractures or compression to vertebrae, or in some cases severing of the spinal cord. Depending on severity, people with spinal cord injuries often suffer loss of feeling or motor function in the limbs, and in some cases complete paralysis. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, spinal cord injuries occur in 40 out of 1 million people in the U.S., adding some 12,500 new cases each year.

The clinical trial is testing the treatments, code-named AST-OPC1 among individuals with spinal cord injuries that caused complete loss of sensation and motor functions from the neck down. Asterias, in Fremont, California, acquired stem cell therapies in development by Geron Corporation, including treatments for spinal cord injury. The treatments are derived from human embryonic stem cells, cultured into oligodendrocyte progenitor cells, or OPCs, then transplanted to regenerate into functioning spinal cord nerve cells.

AST-OPC1 is designed to help repair the myelin that provides insulation around nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. With myelin repaired, signaling of nerve cells is expected to be at least partially restored, allowing for some or more restoration of motor and sensation signals from the brain as well. Studies with lab animals show transplanted human OPCs are capable of restoring some limb functions.

Asterias reported on motor function scores from the first 4 participants receiving single injections of 10 million OPCs — the higher dose level — 90 days after the injections. A 5th participant also received a 10-million cell dose, but less than 90 days ago. The results report as well on 3 patients receiving the lower dose injections of 2 million OPCs after 1 year.

The individuals were rated on a standard scale and algorithm measuring motor and sensory impairment as a result of spinal cord injury, calculating levels of ability in motor functions on 1 or both sides of the body. The company cites research indicating patients with complete spinal cord injuries showing 2 levels of motor improvement on at least 1 side of their body can regain abilities to perform daily activities, such as eating, dressing, and bathing.

The results show participants receiving either high or low doses of OPCs improved their motor functions. After 90 days, all 4 patients receiving 10 million OPCs improved at least 1 level of motor functioning on 1 or both sides of their bodies, while 2 of the 4 participants improved 2 levels of motor function on at least 1 side, and 1 individual achieved 2 levels of functional improvement on both sides.

Of the 3 participants receiving doses of 2 million cells,  2 individuals after 1 year improved 1 level of motor function on both sides of the body, and 1 patient improved 1 level on 1 side. The company says no serious adverse effects were reported in either the higher or lower dose groups, to the stem cells, injection procedures, or immunosuppressive drugs given with the injections.

Asterias plans to report in January 2017 on results of the 10 million dose patient group after 6 months. The trial includes testing of even higher doses of AST-OPC1, 2 injections of 10 million cells, or 20 million OPCs total. The company expects to report on results of those tests later in 2017.

Read more:

*     *     *

Computational Drug Discovery Company Launches

Computational biology illustration

(Lawrence Livermore National Lab)

14 September 2016. A new enterprise, Relay Therapeutics, is being formed for computer-driven discovery of new drugs based on the movements and interactions of protein molecules. The company, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is raising $57 million in its first funding round, led by life sciences investment firm Third Rock Ventures.

Relay Therapeutics plans to combine research from a number of disciplines to find new treatments addressing targets previously considered difficult to reach, beginning with cancer. The company’s technology is built on research into protein movement and dynamics, a different investigation of proteins from conventional work that the company says views proteins largely as static entities.

Relay’s drug discovery work is expected to combine inquiries into the structure of protein molecules, with chemistry, biophysics, and computational techniques. The company aims to apply these disciplines to design molecules that influence the behavior of proteins, and find changes in disease-causing proteins as they bind to and interact with these designed molecules. This kind of drug discovery requires a large number of complex and iterative simulations, which will need supercomputer-scale processing.

The company’s founders include researchers from the academic and business worlds:

Matthew Jacobson, professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at University of California, San Francisco, who studies computer-aided drug design, particularly in predicting actions of enzymes and regulating energy functions in proteins.

Dorothee Kern, biochemistry professor at Brandeis University, who investigates dynamic processes of biological molecules using advanced spectroscopy techniques to uncover and visualize the catalytic power of enzymes.

Mark Murcko, a lecturer in biological engineering at MIT, and founder or advisor to several biotechnology companies; Murcko is serving as Relay’s chief scientist.

David Shaw, research fellow in computational biology and bioinformatics at Columbia University, and chief scientist at David E. Shaw Research in New York.

As reported in Science & Enterprise, Jacobson is also founder of the biotechnology company Global Blood Therapeutics developing treatments for blood-related disorders that went public last year, raising $120 million.

Relay’s first venture financing round is raising $57 million, led by life sciences and health care investment company Third Rock Ventures in Boston. David E. Shaw Research is also an investor in the company. Third Rock Ventures partner Alexis Borisy is serving as Relay’s interim CEO.

Read more:

*     *     *