Understanding the science and technology behind newly public Relay Therapeutics Inc. (RLAY) is, at best, challenging. But that didn't stop investors from gobbling up shares of the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based clinical-stage drug company when it had its initial public offerring last week. The cancer start-up raised $400 million by selling 20 million shares at $20 apiece. The raise was about twice what the company expected just a month ago.
Those investors who got in at the IPO price have enjoyed a bonanza. The share price recently touched almost $50 but has since eased to $43.40. The launch is up there among the largest IPOs in biotech industry, the biggest being Moderna Inc.'s (MRNA) record-setting haul of $604 million in 2018.
Biotechs continue to be hot in 2020. The Nasdaq Index for the industry is up 18% since the start of the year, according to the Boston Business Journal.
Relay Therapeutics claims to be building the world's first dedicated drug discovery platform based on protein motion to discover and develop new medicines that promise to transform patient care. By placing protein motion at the heart of drug discovery, Relay is pursuing what it believes will be a fundamental paradigm shift within the pharmaceutical industry, ushering in a new generation of drugs with the potential to improve and extend the lives of millions of patients.
Targeted drugs often work by preventing the binding of a ligand (an ion or molecule) to its active site. Relay's approach involves combining structural biology, biophysics computational technology and research from other fields to enable detection and characterization of interactions that occur anywhere on a protein rather than only at the active site, according to an article in MedCity News. The idea is to find new, druggable targets by observing how the proteins within cells fold and unfold.
On a mission to pivot from the industry standard structure-based drug design to "motion-based drug design," Relay's Dynamo platform promises to find better ways to drug a target protein
"The whole beauty of enzymes is that they actually move," Dorothee Kern, a Brandeis professor and one of the company's four scientist co-founders, told Endpoints News. "And if they don't move, they are dead. There's a reason life doesn't exist below 180 Kelvin." Side note: zero degrees Kelvin equals -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit.
Since completing a $400 million Series C funding round in December 2018, Relay has started moving its drug candidates into clinical development. In January, it started a phase 1 study of its treatment for metastatic solid tumor cancers, and a second cancer treatment is expected to begin testing in the second half of the year.
Relay's president and CEO is Sanjiv Patel. Previously, he was with Allergan for more than ten years, serving as head of global strategic marketing and general management of emerging markets. He was most recently the company's Chief Strategy Officer.
Disclosure: The author holds no positions in any of the companies mentioned in this article.
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