Fierce Next Gen: Eikon drops hints at early pipeline, plans for $660M-plus reservoir

After raising more than $660 million in less than a year, Eikon Therapeutics' future plans are coming into clearer view, with an oncology pipeline underway as the star-studded biotech looks to capitalize on—and expand—Nobel Prize-winning tech. 

Flush with cash, the 170-person team is “growing rapidly across all functions,” said Dan Anderson, Ph.D., chief scientific officer, at Fierce Biotech's Next Gen virtual event. Anderson, who was one of the first three employees at the company when it launched in October 2019, is part of an experienced executive team that includes CEO Roger Perlmutter, M.D., Ph.D., one of four former Merck leaders to join Eikon. The latest high-profile hire was former Merck CEO Ken Frazier, who joined the board earlier this year. 

As for Eikon's development work, Anderson said the company is working through the chemistry for a number of programs on the road to the clinic. The luxury of riches that’s graced the Bay Area biotech stems from the Nobel Prize-winning microscope technology that’s the foundation of the whole company. Eric Betzig, Ph.D., a professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, won the award for discovering super-resolution microscopy. More specifically, he and his collaborators figured out how to use fluorescence to achieve much higher resolution than other microscopes—so specific that you could visualize the movement of individual proteins in cells.

Anderson said he was drawn in by the founders' science and the opportunity to see out their dream.

"I can see a path towards translating their technology into an industrial scale and deploying it in the context of drug discovery," he said. 

The promise—and more importantly, the uniqueness—of this technology has already attracted other companies interested in potential partnerships. Anderson said if others want to measure protein motion in living cells, “they probably need to come and talk to us.” 

Using bulked-up imagery in addition to cell engineering, Eikon is able to visualize the movement of proteins—a process coined “single-particle tracking.” The platform is a potential cornucopia for new therapies, given that actually visualizing proteins conceivably opens brand-new doors for testing potential drugs. Most recently, the company has been able to further advance the microscopic capabilities, enabling a 10x improvement in the field of view, which increases available data collection. 

Via the novel imagery technology, Anderson says engineers and scientists have been able to study 50 different protein targets. What they’ve gleaned is that proteins have movement signatures, and those motions are impacted by drugs. Bouncing off that finding, the company can go after “undruggable” targets to find therapies and, using the technology, more confidently assess the impact they may have. 

Eikon, as of now, is “therapeutic area agnostic,” according to Anderson. But he says most of the early programs are in oncology, because that has a relatively straightforward path in the clinic. When asked what the company’s goals are over the next five years, Anderson hopes to have multiple assets in the clinic with a “robust pipeline” behind that.

As for financing, the tremendous haul has Eikon set for the foreseeable future, but Anderson doesn't want to get complacent.

"Our runway is super healthy and robust, you know, multiple years out at least," he said. "But it's never too early to think about the next raise."