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Drug Discovery Biotech Inks Partnering Deal, Gains $175M

Gregory Verdine

Gregory Verdine (Harvard University)

23 Mar. 2022. A biotechnology company discovering protein therapies in fungi is collaborating with drug maker GlaxoSmithKline to find new small molecule drugs. GSK is also part of a consortium raising $175 million in venture funds, investing in LifeMine Therapeutics Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

LifeMine Therapeutics discovers and develops small molecule, or low molecular weight drugs from fungal genomes, encoded and linked to human proteins with computational techniques. The company says it uses machine learning algorithms to find indicators or avatars in fungi genomics associated with human genes and proteins, and discover related small molecule drugs with chemical properties addressing desired targets and outcomes. And LifeMine says it also uses informatics to streamline its lead optimization process.

The five year-old company was founded by Gregory Verdine, a professor of chemistry at Harvard University, as well as serial entrepreneur and venture investor, with Richard Klausner, founder of Juno Therapeutics and Grail, and WeiQing Zhou, a co-founder with Verdine of other businesses. The deal with GSK is LifeMine’s first collaboration to advance new drugs from its platform.

“This is a transformative collaboration for LifeMine, and marks the first such agreement in genomic drug discovery from fungi, nature’s virtuoso medicinal chemists,” says Verdine in a LifeMine Therapeutics statement released through BusinessWire. Verdine is the company’s president, CEO, and chief scientist.

Third venture financing round

The agreement calls for LifeMine Therapeutics and GSK to partner on discovery of small molecule drugs addressing up to three undisclosed targets. The companies will also collaborate on preclinical work, sharing costs up to filing for an investigational new drug application, or IND, in effect a request to the Food and Drug Administration to begin clinical trials. GSK will be responsible for further drug development and commercialization.

LifeMine is receiving an initial payment from GSK of $70 million divided between cash and equity investment as part of its new venture round. The company is also eligible for undisclosed discovery, development, and commercial milestone payments for each product from the collaboration, as well as royalties on sales revenues.

LifeMine Therapeutics is raising $175 million in its third venture round led by Fidelity Management & Research Company, with participation by Invus, 3W Partners Capital, and GSK all new investors. Also taking part are current investors GV (previously Google Ventures), Arch Venture Partners, Blue Pool Capital, and MRL Ventures Fund. The company expects to use the proceeds to further refine its technology called Avatar-Rx and advance its lead programs. LifeMine previously raised $105 million in its first two venture rounds, in Sept. 2017 and Jan. 2021.

“This financing will allow us to further scale our Avatar-Rx platform,” notes Verdine, “and advance our lead programs targeting some of the most elusive and high value genetically validated drivers of cancer.” He adds that the new financing and collaboration with GSK, “leaves us well-positioned to rapidly advance multiple high-impact precision medicines to solve some of the most intractable challenges facing modern medicine.”

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