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Relay Therapeutics hits VC jackpot with $400M Series C round for protein motion drug discovery

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A discovery-stage biopharma startup focused on protein motion in drug discovery has raised a round of financing more than six times as big as the last one.

Relay Therapeutics, based in Cambridge, Massachusettts, said Thursday that it closed a $400 million Series C funding round, led by the SoftBank Vision Fund. New investors participating included Foresite Capital, Perceptive Advisors and Tavistock Group, while existing investors included Google’s GV, Casdin Capital, BVF Partners, EcoR1 Capital, Alexandria Venture Investments and an affiliate of D.E. Shaw Research.

The company’s Series B financing was completed on Dec. 14, 2017 and valued at $63 million. BVF Partners led the round, with participation from GV, Casdin Capital, EcoR1 Capital and Section 32. Prior to Wednesday, the company had raised $120 million in total, according to its website.

For now, the company has multiple discovery-stage programs, and it plans to use the funding from the Series C raise to advance them into the clinic.

“We are at a unique moment in the evolution of drug discovery where we can realize the promise of integrating ever more powerful experimental and computational discovery tools to tackle previously undruggable protein targets,” Relay CEO Sanjiv Patel said in a statement. “The success of our early programs validates the potential of our platform to create breakthrough therapies that address a broad range of diseases.”

The company’s allosteric drug-discovery platform is designed to detect and characterize interactions that occur anywhere on a protein, not only at the active site, according to its website. In other words, the idea is to unlock new, druggable targets by observing how the proteins within cells fold and unfold.

While it works off a very different kind of technology, Black Diamond Therapeutics – launched last week by Versant Ventures with a $20 million Series A round – is also focused on discovering and developing drugs based on allostery. In Black Diamond’s case, that means drugs that target allosteric mutant oncogenes, meaning they occur outside of traditional kinase domain mutations.

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