Sanofi will co-invest in start-up biotech company Warp Drive Bio by providing financial funding and access to its strains library and expertise in natural products. Two US venture capitalist firms, Third Rock Ventures and Greylock Partners, will also invest in the start up, with all three offering funding that could amount to $125 million in the next five years, including an equity investment of $75 million.
War Drive Bio, which will focus on using proprietary genomic technology to discover drugs of natural origin, will remain an independent company, and retain strategic direction, operational management and the right to develop and commercialise assets. However, Sanofi will be granted certain access rights to Warp Drive Bio’s technology and products on a worldwide basis.
According to a press statement, advances in microbial genomics have revealed “vast treasure troves” of novel, natural drug products hidden in microbes.
“Prior to Warp Drive Bio, no one had created a comprehensive discovery engine that selectively mines from nature those products with transformative pharmaceutical potential,” Gregory L. Verdine, a venture partner at Third Rock Ventures and co-founder of Warp Drive Bio, said in the statement. “Warp Drive Bio has developed that capability and is using it to discover powerful next-generation drugs that target the central circuitry of human cells in completely new ways.”
The company has been assembling an array of technologies to create a platform for identifying potential drug candidates using microbiology, next generation sequencing, cutting-edge bioinformatics and chemo-informatics. The process involves a genomic search engine and customised search queries that enable natural products within micro-organisms to be identified on the basic of their distinctive genomic signature.
“This innovative collaboration between Sanofi and Third Rock Ventures provides the opportunity to build significant value and the potential for venture capital levels of return,” said Alexis Borisy, partner at Third Rock Ventures and interim CEO of Warp Drive Bio. “Importantly, it also enables us to advance and accelerate the development of our proprietary genomics platform, unlock ‘nature’s drugs’ and, ultimately, create breakthrough therapies for patients.”