Genentech allies with a metagenomics upstart in New York on a discovery deal jam packed with biobucks

Genentech has turned to a biotech startup in New York for its latest discovery pact.

David Pompliano

The big Roche group is lending its marquee status to little Lodo Therapeutics, which is plumbing microbial DNA sequence information contained in soil for fresh leads on novel therapeutics. Based in the Alexandria Center for Life Science in midtown Manhattan, the company launched in early 2016 with a $17 million Series A and a quest to explore the information they can find encoded in bacterial genomes — a break from culturing known strains of bacteria, which has some extreme limitations.

Their platform tech is centered on metagenomics. Lodo has 15 staffers. This is their first collaboration.

Sean Brady

Genentech is building on the work of Sean Brady, an associate professor at The Rockefeller University and a co-founder at Lodo. 

“We isolate DNA from soil,” CSO David Pompliano tells me, “and use sequencing to see what molecules are encoded.” It’s not a blind hunt, he adds by way of explanation. They may start with a drug that has known issues, like drug-drug interactions, and use that basic scaffolding to find new drugs that have all the best attributes, without the built-in threats.

Like a lot of these early-stage discovery deals, we don’t know how much Genentech is paying in the upfront, but there’s a Mother Lode of milestones, with the full deal worth up to $969 million in biobucks. Typically, these deals are heavily back ended.

Lodo may be small, but it has a big syndicate courtesy of Accelerator Corp. Investors include AbbVie, Alexandria Venture Investments, ARCH Venture Partners, Eli Lilly and Company, Harris & Harris Group, Innovate NY Fund, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, The Partnership Fund for New York City, Pfizer Venture Investments, Watson Fund and WuXi PharmaTech. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also stepped in to help.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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