LifeMine Therapeutics, a biotech company seeking to produce new therapies from fungi, has raised $175M in Series C funding and will begin a collaboration with GSK to develop new drug candidates for difficult targets.
New investor Fidelity Management & Research Company led the financing round, with Invus and 3W Partners Capital also joining as new investors and many existing investors including Blue Pool Capital and MRL Ventures Fund also taking part. GSK also joined the round, contributing $70 million up front as part of the new strategic partnership.
The Cambridge, Massachusetts based company was launched by a $55 million Series A round in 2017 led by WuXi Healthcare Ventures. Harvard professor, entrepreneur and venture partner at WuXi, Gregory Verdine was founding CEO, president and CSO and retains the titles today.
LifeMine combines high-throughput microbiology and genome engineering and automation technologies with data analytics and machine learning to create new drug candidates. More specifically, it has a focus on medically relevant genetically-encoded small molecules (GEMs) that can be found in great quantities in fungi, but have been historically hard to isolate. These GEMs are particularly useful in creating human medicines as fungi are eukaryotes and share many genes and proteins with humans.
The company has developed a platform to discover these new molecules called Avatar-Rx, which the team will use some of the Series C money to progress and scale. “This financing will allow us to further scale our Avatar-Rx platform and advance our lead programs targeting some of the most elusive and high value genetically validated drivers of cancer,” said Verdine, in a press statement.
The money will also go towards expanding the company and hiring new staff members including a CSO to take over the role from Verdine. The company will also expand its lab space in Massachusetts and open a new office in Basel, Switzerland.
As part of the collaboration with GSK, the big pharma will have access to LifeMine’s platform to develop up to three new small molecule drug candidates. They will share costs up to the IND filing stage and GSK will be responsible for development and commercialization costs, although LifeMine would also be eligible for various undisclosed milestone payments and royalties should any of the drug candidates achieve market approval.
“GSK’s drug discovery approach focuses on advanced technologies, including human genetics, functional genomics and machine learning to increase our probability of success,” said John Lepore, SVP, Head of Research, GSK.
“This approach leads to genetically validated targets that are twice as likely to succeed as medicines, but due to their novelty often require innovation to unlock their potential. We are looking forward to teaming up with LifeMine to use their cutting-edge platform, so together we can identify what nature might have already created as chemistry starting points to increase our chances of developing transformational new drugs for patients.”
Development is still at an early stage, but the company hopes to get at least one of its candidate therapies into clinical trials by the end of next year.