Six years after a spectacular debut, Warp Drive Bio is powering down and handing its ‘undruggable’ ambitions over to Revolution

Close to six years after Third Rock launched Warp Drive Bio with a big-money collaboration from Sanofi and ambitious plans to drug the undruggable with new tech out of Harvard, the biotech has reached the end of the line as an independent operation. 

Today Warp Drive is dispatching its pipeline to another Third Rock startup company, Revolution Medicines, with the CEOs of both companies insisting that this is a win-win for all involved, though Warp Drive never actually made the leap into the clinic.

Laurence Reid

Pressed on the point, Warp Drive CEO Laurence Reid concedes that every decision like this has its “upsides and downsides,” but he insists that the decision by the board represents the best path forward for investors as well as the medicines they have been toiling on since 2012.

Warp Drive was a biotech child of its time. The company boasted of a ”genomic search engine” that “enables hidden natural products to be revealed on the basis of their distinctive genomic signature.” And with the likes of Greg Verdine — who left to do 2 new startups — and George Church out of Harvard behind it, there were plenty of believers.

Whatever the two CEOs say today about all the positives behind the deal, any biotech company that goes six years without getting into the clinic — or announcing plans to — is likely to get a thorough review from investors. Reid, though, says that Third Rock and the other investors were willing to go back into a Series B, the original plan for financing the next step, before the board set this new path out.

The fate of the 43 staffers?

Mark Goldsmith

That’s still to be decided, says CEO Mark Goldsmith of Revolution, which only recently underwent a transition to oncology after abandoning its early work on an anti-fungal. Obviously, he added, not everyone will make the jump from the East to the West Coast where Revolution is based, and that in itself will mean some reduction in staff.

The big Sanofi collaborations that were heralded in antibiotics and oncology? Those ended in 2017 and 2016, says Reid. And the lights went out on those partnerships without any of the rah-rah that attended their arrival.

Sanofi currently has 40% of the equity in Warp Drive, with no rights to any of its products.

How much is that worth after the deal goes through, with Revolution handing out stock to investors?

They aren’t saying.

The two other collaborations that were formed with GlaxoSmithKline and Roche, which fronted $87 million for the upfront and preclinical milestones? Continuing under review, to be decided on later, after Revolution’s exec team “determines its business strategy for the genome mining platform.”

Goldsmith also hit a variety of upbeat notes about the deal, saying this would bring together two highly complementary pipelines and allow a more rapid development of the Warp Drive assets.

Asked when the most advanced Warp Drive program could expect to enter the clinic, Goldsmith replied that they aren’t providing timelines.


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