NEW YORK – LifeMine Therapeutics on Wednesday announced that it has inked a partnership with GlaxoSmithKline and raised $175 million in a Series C financing, which it will put toward genomically informed drug discovery and development efforts, including in precision oncology.
Through the strategic R&D partnership, GSK will tap into LifeMine's Avatar-Rx drug discovery platform to identify small molecule leads directed at up to three human targets across several disease areas including cancer. GSK will determine the targets of interest.
LifeMine's Avatar-Rx platform involves mining fungal biospheres for novel genetically encoded small molecules, or GEMs. To perform this search, the firm uses high-throughput microbiology, data science, artificial intelligence, and genome engineering and automation technologies. The platform is designed to identify GEMs that have predetermined targets and biological functions.
After identifying the GEMs, LifeMine uses synthetic biology to pull them from their natural evolutionary source, which it says it can accomplish in just a few months. Then, Avatar-Rx optimizes the retrieved GEMs, transforming them into drug candidates that can be investigated in preclinical and clinical studies.
Cambridge, Massachusetts-based LifeMine has ambitions to target some of the "most elusive and high-value genetically validated drivers of cancer" with the GEMs it discovers using Avatar-Rx. LifeMine's platform can help "identify what nature might have already created as chemistry starting points to increase our chances of developing transformational new drugs for patients," John Lepore, GSK's senior VP and head of research, said in a statement.
LifeMine plans to put the $175 million it raised in the Series C round to further advance and scale Avatar-Rx. The funding round was led by new investor Fidelity Management & Research and included participation by Invus and 3W Partners Capital. Existing investors GV, Arch Venture Partners, Blue Pool Capital, and MRL Ventures Fund also contributed.
GSK, meanwhile, will pay LifeMine $70 million upfront in cash and through an equity investment in the company in the Series C round. Under the terms of their collaboration, LifeMine will be eligible for additional discovery, development, and commercial milestone payments from GSK down the line. LifeMine can also receive royalties on net sales of drugs that GSK decides to commercialize through the collaboration. The firms will share the costs to file investigational new drug applications with regulators, while GSK will cover development and commercialization costs.