Tue, Sep 15, 2020
The company is building a first-of-its-kind proprietary genomics database to reveal new secondary metabolites to combat human disease.
Menlo Park, CA – Hexagon Bio, Inc. (“Hexagon”), a biotechnology company turning nature’s genomes into medicines, today announced that it has closed $47 million in Series A financing. The round was led by The Column Group, with participation from 8VC and Two Sigma Ventures. Tod Smeal, formerly of Eli Lilly, Pfizer and SUGEN, will join as Chief Scientific Officer as the company adds drug discovery capabilities to complement its interdisciplinary platform for molecule identification.
Hexagon’s molecule discovery platform uses data science, genomics, and synthetic biology to discover potent, evolutionarily refined secondary metabolites and their protein targets from fungal genomes. Secondary metabolites, which are small molecules produced by bacteria, fungi, and plants (also known as “natural products”), comprise many of the world’s most efficacious therapeutics including the antibiotic penicillin and the cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin. Among FDA-approved drugs, 49% of all small molecule cancer drugs and 73% of all antibiotics originated from secondary metabolites. While secondary metabolites have proven to be rich sources of potent drugs, their translation has been hindered by the lack of mechanistic understanding of their intended target. Hexagon’s proprietary algorithms identify novel secondary metabolites, along with their cognate proteins (therapeutic targets), from genomic data, allowing Hexagon to bypass traditional screening methods.
“Hexagon has shown that we can build small molecules targeting key proteins in human disease, using our database of microbial genomes. Now it’s time to scale up, and Hexagon is exceptionally well poised to do so using automation and large-scale DNA sequencing of microbes, starting with fungi,” said Hexagon CEO, Maureen Hillenmeyer.
Only a few thousand fungal genomes have been studied, but it is estimated that there are five million fungi on earth. Large-scale sequencing of those genomes could yield novel treatments for a vast array of human diseases. Hexagon will use the Series A funding to develop a proprietary genomics database of new secondary metabolites, and to build a drug discovery team to develop these compounds. Hexagon’s initial therapeutic focus areas are oncology and infectious disease. The platform is extendable to other therapeutic areas including immunology, cardiovascular, neurological, and metabolic disorders.
Tod Smeal, PhD, will join Hexagon as Chief Scientific Officer to lead drug discovery efforts. Dr. Smeal brings 22 years of research and development experience in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, most recently as Chief Scientific Officer of Cancer Biology, Oncology Drug Discovery at Lilly Research Labs. “Tod Smeal’s track record at delivering clinical candidates, combined with his leadership experience in building drug discovery teams, will enable the company to enter its next phase: developing new targeted therapies identified by Hexagon’s platform,” said Maureen Hillenmeyer.
“I am excited by Hexagon’s vision of genomics-driven discovery of secondary metabolites that target disease-driving proteins. The molecules that result from Hexagon’s platform have evolved to target specific proteins and are cell-permeable, making them excellent starting points for drug discovery,” said David Goeddel, Chairman of the Board of Directors.
The company is led by CEO and founder Maureen Hillenmeyer. Other Hexagon founders are Brian Naughton, Head of Data and formerly founding scientist at 23andme, Colin Harvey, Head of Platform and Yi Tang, Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UCLA.
In conjunction with the Series A financing, David Goeddel, PhD, Managing Partner at The Column Group will join as chairman of Hexagon’s Board of Directors. Dr. Goeddel’s pioneering work at Genentech in the fields of gene cloning and expression of human proteins was the basis for five marketed therapeutics including human insulin, human growth hormone, interferon-alpha, interferon-gamma and tissue plasminogen activator. Juan Jaen, PhD, co-founder, President and Head of Research at Arcus Biosciences, and formerly co-founder and head of R&D at Flexus Biosciences will join Hexagon’s Board as an independent director.
“Drug resistance in human fungal and bacterial infections is a growing threat with the potential to severely limit treatment options for patients,” said Dusan Perovic, Principal at Two Sigma Ventures. “We are proud to support the world-class engineers and data scientists at Hexagon as they work to leverage software and automation to build the next wave of targeted therapies and expand treatment options for infectious diseases.”
Hexagon Bio is headquartered in Menlo Park, CA.
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About Hexagon Bio, Inc.
Hexagon Bio is a drug discovery company enabled by a novel understanding of natural product evolution. Hexagon’s highly interdisciplinary platform uses data science, genomics, synthetic biology and automation to discover potent, evolutionarily refined small molecules and their protein targets directly from fungal genomes. Hexagon develops these molecules into therapeutics to combat human disease. Hexagon launched in 2017 and has raised $55 million to date from The Column Group, 8VC, Two Sigma Ventures, and others.