Hexagon Bio raises $61M to continue efforts to turn fungi into drugs
A year after raising a $47 million launch round, the fungi-loving drug hunters at Hexagon Bio have more than doubled their coffers.
Hexagon announced today that it raised another $61 million for its efforts to design cancer and infectious disease drugs based on insights mined from the DNA in millions of species of fungi. The new financing brings Hexagon’s committed funding to over $108 million.
Nextech Invest led the financing, along with new investors SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Casdin Capital. The Column Group, 8VC, and Two Sigma Ventures committed funds as returning investors.
Along with leading the financing, Nextech Invest’s managing partner Jakob Loven will join Hexagon as a member of its board of directors.
“We look forward to working with Hexagon’s talented team to help realize the company’s ambitious vision of turning nature’s hidden molecules into first-in-class medicines,” Loven said.
Hexagon is trying to apply new technology to an old fashioned approach: deriving drugs from fungi and other microbes. Historically, many of the key breakthroughs in the 20th century were found this way, including penicillin and other antibiotics, and the groundbreaking organ transplant drug cyclosporine.
Those drugs, though, were found by brute force: throwing microbes at the wall and seeing what stuck. Hexagon will use new genetic sequencing, machine learning and other techniques to try to tap as yet undiscovered weapons lurking in the microbial armory.
As then-CSO Tod Smeal noted to Endpoints News last year, there are about 5 million fungal species but only 5,000 have been sequenced, leaving lots to be discovered.
The funds raised will allow Hexagon to expand its genomics database and accelerate drug discovery efforts.
“We are excited to embark on the next phase of growth to discover and develop unique and potent therapeutic compounds for a broad spectrum of intractable diseases,” said Hexagon co-founder and CEO Maureen Hillenmeyer in a statement.
That sentiment reflects what Smeal said last year to Endpoints — that while there is a focus, Hexagon will remain open on other therapeutic opportunities. In essence, they won’t be picky.
“We’re focused on oncology, but initially we’re going to be working in anti-infectives and oncology,” the former CSO of cancer biology at Lilly Research Labs said. “We’re going to be very opportunistic, so depending on what comes out of the platform, if there’s opportunities in other therapeutic areas, we will probably explore them as well.”