Former Blueprint and Peloton vets team up to take on big players in growing hunt for a new type of small molecule
Drug discovery is a historically painstaking process, but another biotech has impressed investors with its plan to make scientists’ jobs a bit easier.
Atavistik Bio uncloaked on Tuesday morning with a $60 million Series A round led by The Column Group and a new high-throughput screening platform to identify allosteric modulators of proteins. A small group of co-founders got serious about forming the company about eight months ago. And, led by former Peloton CEO John Josey and former Blueprint Medicines CSO Marion Dorsch, the team secured their own lab space in Cambridge, MA last month.
Allosteric modulators are substances that bind to a protein, and induce a conformational change that affects the binding affinity of that protein for other molecules.
“We know from evolution and many, many years of biochemical study that metabolic pathways are very often regulated by substrates and products of the pathway,” Josey, acting CEO, told Endpoints News. “And it’s not uncommon for a substrate or product to bind in an allosteric manner to regulate a protein’s function.”
Atavistik’s platform comes from University of Utah biochemistry professor Jared Rutter. His screening process starts with metabolites, which are pooled based on molecular weight. Then an affinity screen is conducted to look for small molecule metabolites that bind to proteins of interest.
“What you’re looking for are not only things that bind, but did they bind in an allosteric manner?” Josey said.
So instead of picking a target and conducting tests one by one to find an allosteric modulator, Atavistik is turning the process “upside down,” said Dorsch, who’s now president and CSO. “It allows you to really cast a very wide net,” she added.
Josey says the goal is to eventually develop an in-house pipeline for metabolic diseases and cancer. But for now, he’ll use the Series A funds to build out the team and the platform. The goal is to hire 15-20 people by the end of this year, and a similar amount next year, Dorsch said.
“There are many different ways that you could possibly do these types of high-throughput screens,” Josey said. One example is HotSpot Therapeutics, which reeled in $65 million last May for its computer platform that uses a slew of different algorithms to search for allosteric sites.
“This is just a very robust system,” Josey said of Atavistik’s platform.