CHARM Therapeutics launches with a $50 million Series A financing to transform structure-based drug discovery using its proprietary DragonFold AI technology
CHARM Therapeutics is applying its end-to-end 3D deep learning protein-ligand co-folding technology, DragonFold, to develop small molecule therapeutics against previously hard-to-drug targets in cancer and other therapeutic areas
Series A financing was co-led by blue-chip life-science investors F-Prime Capital and OrbiMed
DragonFold was developed by CHARM co-founders Laksh Aithani and David Baker, Ph.D., providing the first rapid, accurate protein-ligand co-folding algorithm
Industry veteran and experienced drug developer Gary D. Glick, Ph.D., named Executive Chair
LONDON – 9 June 2022 – CHARM Therapeutics (“CHARM”, “The Company”), a 3D deep-learning research company discovering and developing transformational medicines founded by David Baker, Ph.D. and Laksh Aithani, announces today a $50M Series A financing co-led by F-Prime Capital and OrbiMed, with General Catalyst, Khosla Ventures, Braavos and Axial also participating.
CHARM Therapeutics is pioneering end-to-end 3D deep-learning to discover and develop transformational medicines against previously hard-to-drug targets. The Company’s proprietary platform, DragonFold, applies expertise in protein-ligand co-folding to deliver transformational medicines targeting challenging molecular targets in cancer and other disease areas.
“3D deep-learning on macromolecular configurations represents a new era in drug discovery. The work of David Baker in predicting highly accurate three-dimensional structures of proteins offers potential to explore new frontiers in medicine, approaching disease targets previously considered undruggable. CHARM Therapeutics has been created to combine these breakthroughs in 3D deep-learning with excellence in drug discovery and development,” said Gary D. Glick Ph.D., Executive Chair of CHARM Therapeutics. “With the support of these high-quality new investors, we look forward to realising these goals.”
Leveraging end-to-end 3D deep-learning to predict protein-ligand co-crystal structure
Structure-based drug design has had a significant impact on drug discovery, but its full potential has been limited by three fundamental challenges: first, determining non-orthosteric binding sites; second, predicting the joint pose of a ligand bound to a flexible protein; and third, predicting the strength of the binding interactions, which is an intricate interplay between enthalpy and entropy.
CHARM Therapeutics’ proprietary DragonFold technology, developed by David Baker and Laksh Aithani, uses end-to-end 3D deep-learning to predict the co-crystal structure of a protein-ligand complex based on a protein's primary sequence and the ligand’s chemical structure.
“Due to the end-to-end nature of DragonFold, it has the potential to simultaneously determine the binding site and model induced fit as well as predict the pose and affinity of the ligand, thus unlocking the true potential of structure-based drug design,” said Laksh Aithani, co-founder, Chief Executive Officer and Board Member of CHARM Therapeutics. “We are advancing this technology and its application to the hit discovery, hit-to-lead and lead optimization processes of small molecule drug discovery.”
The Company is building a robust engine to translate these 3D predictions into novel small molecule therapeutics that modulate challenging targets, initially in cancer, with the potential to transform the lives of patients.
Pioneering founders and experienced scientific leadership team
CHARM Therapeutics was founded by Laksh Aithani, who previously founded Y Combinator-backed genei, and was a core contributor to the machine learning platform at Exscientia and most recently was Entrepreneur in Residence at Braavos. He will serve as CHARM’s Chief Executive Officer.
Joining him as scientific co-founder is David Baker, Ph.D., Head of the Institute for Protein Design, University of Washington. David received the 20th Wiley Prize for his work in predicting accurate three-dimensional structures of proteins and is a world-renowned leader in protein design.
David Baker, Ph.D., co-founder of CHARM Therapeutics, commented: “Recent advances in deep-learning-based protein-folding have radically altered the scope of what we can achieve in biology, and I’m thrilled that we have created CHARM Therapeutics to develop this to address unmet needs in medicine.”
Gary D. Glick, Ph.D., a scientist and serial biotech entrepreneur who founded IFM Therapeutics, Scorpion Therapeutics and Odyssey Therapeutics, joins as Executive Chair of the Company.
Gary D. Glick and Laksh Aithani will be supported by a Board of Directors that includes Muz Mansuri, Ph.D., Venture Partner at F-Prime Capital and previously on the Executive Committee at Sanofi and Gilead Sciences. Also joining the Board will be Nihal Sinha, M.D., Partner at F-Prime Capital and member of the founding team at Orchard Therapeutics, and Rishi Gupta, J.D., Partner at OrbiMed.
Joining as Senior Vice President and Head of Drug Discovery is Sarah Skerratt, Ph.D., previously Head of Preclinical Sciences at MSD. Before joining CHARM Therapeutics, she held senior positions at Vertex Pharmaceuticals and Pfizer. Sergey Bartunov, Ph.D., Director of AI, joins from Google DeepMind.
Chris Bischoff, Managing Director at General Catalyst, Alex Morgan, M.D., Ph.D., Partner at Khosla Ventures, and Nessan Bermingham, Ph.D., Partner at Khosla Ventures and previously founder and CEO of Intellia Therapeutics, join the Board as observers.
Rishi Gupta J.D., Partner at OrbiMed, commented: “The dramatic advances in predicting the three-dimensional structures of proteins represents one of the most significant breakthroughs in the application of AI to the life sciences. CHARM Therapeutics has assembled a world-class team of experts in AI, drug discovery and structural biology and we look forward to supporting the team in this journey to redefining the process of drug discovery.”
Nihal Sinha M.D., Partner at F-Prime Capital, commented: “CHARM was founded to extend the protein-folding innovations to small molecule drug discovery and has made significant progress towards predicting the structural basis of protein-ligand interaction – a technology with the potential for far-reaching consequences in medicine.”
About CHARM Therapeutics
CHARM Therapeutics is a 3D deep-learning research Company discovering and developing transformational medicines.
Based on the award-winning discoveries of David Baker in protein-folding, CHARM Therapeutics has developed a proprietary technology based on the first rapid, accurate protein/ligand co-folding algorithm. The Company’s mission is to use these insights to address challenging targets in cancer and other disease areas and discover and develop new drugs against these targets.
CHARM Therapeutics was co-founded by David Baker and Laksh Aithani. The Company is Chaired by Gary Glick, founder of IFM Therapeutics, Scorpion Therapeutics and Odyssey Therapeutics.
London-based CHARM Therapeutics has raised $50 million to date and is building an interdisciplinary and entrepreneurial team, combining leaders from the fields of AI and biotechnology. It is supported by high quality international investors including OrbiMed, F-Prime, General Catalyst, Khosla Ventures, Axial and Braavos.
For further information, please contact:
Laksh Aithani, Chief Executive Officer
Phone: +44 7933 185425
Consilium Strategic Communications
Amber Fennell/Chris Gardner/Jessica Hodgson
Phone: 44 (0)20 3709 5700