Venture

Relay grabs $63M to pay for a drug discovery trip into the fourth dimension

Two years after Third Rock launched Relay Therapeutics to explore the drug discovery potential of watching proteins in motion, the Cambridge, MA-based biotech is back with a $63 million round to pay for the next leg of the journey toward the clinic.

Sanjiv Patel

Sanjiv Patel joined Relay last April from his job as chief strategy officer at Allergan, taking over from Third Rock partner Alexis Borisy. Now he’s in charge of a group of 43 staffers involved in something he feels is completely unique.

The big idea at Relay is that using new tech to watch how proteins perform in motion, rather than using the still shots that have dominated research in the field, they’ll be able to come up with a whole new class of therapies.

“Creating huge data sets using computer power allows us to visualize the motion,” Patel tells me. And what do they see?

“It’s very much like a transformer,” he says, twisting and turning and changing shapes — which he sees as the fourth dimension of protein reality that informs their work.

Relay is focusing its in-house work on oncology, but it’s the kind of platform that can be turned in many different directions. Strategic partners can help there, the CEO says, while the biotech also looks for partners to sign on for early-stage work in the cancer field.

In the meantime Patel expects the staff to grow to 60 in 2018, with a drive to the first clinical trials in 2019.

BVF Partners led the round with participation from new investors GV (formerly Google Ventures), Casdin Capital, EcoR1 Capital and Section 32, helmed by Bill Maris. Existing investors Third Rock Ventures and Alexandria Venture Investments also participated. Kanishka Pothula, managing director at BVF Partners, will join the board of Relay Therapeutics.


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