Warp Drive Bio Hands Over Antibiotics Program to Sanofi
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
Warp Drive was created in 2012 by a strategic partnership with Sanofi and financing from Third Rock Ventures and Greylock Partners. They infused the company with $125 million, and gave Sanofi an option to buy the company if its microbial genome-focused drug discovery focus hit certain milestones. In January 2016, Sanofi revised the agreement, and dropped its acquisition option, but licensed four programs for up to $750 million made up of an upfront fee, milestone payments, and research funding.
“Antibiotic resistance is a major global public health threat, and Warp Drive is committed to deploying our unique Genome Mining Platform to discovery novel medicines that address this challenge,” said Laurence Reid, Warp Drive’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “With the hand-off of this program to Sanofi, Warp Drive will now focus on our other programs, both anti-infectives and for other diseases, deploying our proprietary Genome Mining and SMART platforms. In particular, we continue to advance our RAS cancer program, which is also partnered with Sanofi.”
Although any actual product is several years away, Sanofi’s research-and-development chief, Elias Zerhouni, hopes that human trials will begin as early as 2018.
Zerhouni is leading Sanofi’s efforts to partner with outside scientists for novel drug discovery. The deal with Warp Drive was the first of his partnerships, which he calls the Sunrise Initiative.
“Nobody really has generated antibiotics through this method before,” Zerhouni told MarketWatch. “It is truly groundbreaking. We’re hoping we will find molecules that are not only more efficacious but also less toxic.”
In addition to its anti-infectives programs, Warp Drive has an oncology program. In November 2015, it announced its Small Molecule Assisted Receptor Targeting (SMART) platform, which is said can address “targets that were previously considered undruggable.” Its initial focus is on the human oncogene RAS, which has a high mutation rate in cancer.
“The potential to therapeutically target RAS represents a significant advance in the future of oncology drug development,” said Barbara Weber, entrepreneur-in-residence at Third Rock Ventures, in a statement at the time. “By creating an entirely new modality for how we attack these types of targets, Warp Drive Bio is opening up many new avenues for therapeutics to treat cancer and other diseases.”
The company describes SMART as having many of the advantages of small molecules and biologics. “With SMART, a small molecule engages an intracellular receptor creating a novel composite surface comprising the small molecule plus the receptor. The composite surface specifically binds to the disease target of interest, thereby antagonizing its activity and creating the desired pharmacologic effect.”
“We have made important progress in being able to target RAS not just once, but multiple times and in various states and forms,” said Greg Verdine, Warp Drive’s founder, president and chief scientific officer, in a 2015 statement. “If we can achieve this with RAS, this will enable our programs against many key targets in oncology and other therapeutic areas—thus redefining the limits of druggability.”