Amir Nashat, World Medical Innovation Forum via Youtube

Bay­er bets up to $100M on ex­plor­ing new bio­mol­e­c­u­lar con­den­sate ter­rain with a biotech up­start

In the In­di­ana Jones ware­house of ge­nom­ic odd­i­ties, the mil­lions of units of so-called “junk DNA” that cre­ate noth­ing but play a hand in tons of things have grabbed most of the at­ten­tion. But there are oth­er arks and Tem­plar cross­es out there.

Among them: the code for in­trin­si­cal­ly dis­or­dered re­gions. Float­ing like bound­less clumps of boil­ing spaghet­ti through­out the cell, these re­gions first ap­peared in sci­en­tif­ic sketch­es at the turn of the 20th cen­tu­ry be­fore van­ish­ing from most cell di­a­grams, such as those in a high school text­book. Most or­ganelles were neat­ly bound in mem­branes. These loose mol­e­cules re­sist­ed char­ac­ter­i­za­tion. Sci­en­tists large­ly ig­nored them.

“I’m hon­est­ly em­bar­rassed I didn’t no­tice them,” Phil Sharp, a No­bel Prize-bi­ol­o­gist at MIT who co-dis­cov­ered RNA splic­ing, told End­points News. 

In 2009, two re­searchers at the Max Planck In­sti­tute re-sparked in­ter­est in these re­gions and their code with a Sci­ence pa­per iden­ti­fy­ing them as “con­den­sates.” They start­ed a chain of dis­cov­er­ies that be­gan to show them as us­ing a con­cept called phase tran­si­tion and play­ing a vi­tal role in gene tran­scrip­tion and a host of cell func­tions. Cell dis­eases too. Derek Lowe got in­ter­est­ed. So did Mer­ck’s Ja­son Im­briglio. Now the most promi­nent biotech try­ing to lever­age the still-young re­search for re­search, Dew­point Ther­a­peu­tics, is get­ting a deal worth up to $100 mil­lion to col­lab­o­rate with Bay­er.

Endpoints News

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