Arrakis Therapeutics raised $38 million in a Series A fundraising and named Michael Gilman, Ph.D., as its chairman and CEO. The financing round was led by Canaan Partners, with participation by Advent Life Sciences, Pfizer, Celgene, Osage University Partners, and co-founder Henri Termeer.

Arrakis was founded in 2015 with seed funding from Advent Life Sciences and ex-Genzyme president and CEO Henri Termeer. The startup is leveraging its TRYST™ and PEARL-seq™ platforms to identify disease-relevant RNA targets and build a pipeline of rationally designed, small-molecule drugs that inhibit RNA function. The initial pipeline will focus on neurology, oncology, and rare genetic disorders.

It has previously been considered too challenging to develop small-molecule drugs that target RNAs, according to Arrakis co-founder and CSO, Russell C. Petter, Ph.D. Arrakis has addressed this challenge by developing a proprietary chemical biology platform that it claims can interrogate RNAs in their native, structurally folded states within cells to enable the discovery and rational design of anti-RNA small-molecule drug candidates. “Our goal is to intentionally discover RNA-modulating small-molecule medicines,” Dr. Petter stated. “We believe that new developments in informatics, structural biology, and biophysical tools now make that possible.”

“Arrakis intends to re-architect small-molecule drug discovery by redirecting, modifying, and creating tools that enable medicinal chemistry to directly address therapeutically important RNA molecules,” added Dr. Gilman. “Our substantial intellectual property, financial resources, and the extensive experience of our team in discovering and developing novel drugs will enable us to build a pipeline of new small-molecule therapeutics for patients not helped by today’s medicines.”

Former Biogen exec Michael Gilman is an advisor to Atlast Ventures. The biotech entrepreneur previously co-founded and was CEO at Atlas-backed Padlock Therapeutics, from startup in 2014 to the firm’s potentially $600 million buyout by BMS in 2016. Dr. Gilman also co-founded and led Stromedix, another Atlas-backed startup, which was established in 2006 and acquired by Biogen Idec in 2012 in a deal worth potentially in excess of $500 million.


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