Venture

Merck, Amgen back a $30M play for Ribometrix — one of the upstarts making its mark in drugging RNA

The idea that you can drug RNA has attracted a variety of biotech startups interested in pioneering a new technology. And one of those biotechs looking to break new ground in the field just scooped up a $30 million round.

The Durham, NC-based biotech Ribometrix is the brainchild of Kevin Weeks, the UNC investigator who hatched the scientific ideas that would go on to create the platform at Ribometrix.

Mike Solomon

The secret sauce here is targeting RNA molecules that fold into 3D structures. By learning how to explore and understand those 3D structures, the company believes it can hit some currently undruggable targets — vastly expanding the landscape of potential drugs. And they’ve been fine tuning the platform tech so they can do it with a string of new programs, starting with Huntington’s disease.

“We’re 100% focused on targeting functional 3D structures,” says Mike Solomon, the SV venture partner and former COO of Decibel — where he helped organize the venture backing — who’s now going to make running Ribometrix his full-time job.

“I’m going to become the full-time CEO,” adds Solomon, who’s clearly not faking it. “I’m so excited by the company, the potential to do something so transformational. The potential is enormous.”

Solomon manages a team of 15, which is slated to double in size now that the new venture money is in place.

The other companies in the field include Bill Haney’s Skyhawk Therapeutics, Mike Gilman’s Arrakis and Expansion Therapeutics.

Merck’s early-stage venture group, M Ventures, with led the round Amgen Ventures, Pappas Capital and Illumina Ventures jumping on board the expanded syndicate. Founding investors SV Health Investors, AbbVie Ventures, Hatteras Venture Partners, MP Healthcare Venture Management, the Dementia Discovery Fund and Alexandria Venture Investments also joined the round. M Ventures’ Hakan Goker is joining the board.


Image: Founders Katie Warner and Kevin Weeks. RIBOMETRIX


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