Metis Therapeutics emerges with $86M for 2022 clinic entry, push into gene therapy

The idea began when Chris Lai, Ph.D., met with MIT researchers at a Starbucks in Belmont, Massachusetts, in 2017. Now, Lai's venture has $86 million (PDF) in series A financing to bankroll a 2022 clinical trial and an expansion into gene therapy. 

The CEO kept most details about Metis Therapeutics under wraps but said the company will use the fresh proceeds to fuel the first human test of its lead candidate early next year. The funds will also back licensing deals to pick up early-stage discovery assets and candidates almost ready for the clinic, Lai said in an interview with Fierce Biotech. 

Beyond that, the small-molecule and RNA therapeutics upstart will also expand its delivery platform in the coming 12 months to include CRISPR tools and gene therapy, Lai said. The biotech will beef up its pipeline to go beyond the liver and into other organs and tissues in need of new treatments, the CEO added.

When the idea for Metis originally bubbled up in 2017, Lai found there to be a "huge lack of development in artificial-intelligence-driven formulation and drug delivery" R&D, he recalled. While working on his Ph.D. at the Novartis-MIT Center of Continuous Manufacturing, Lai co-founded an AI-driven water-tech startup called AquaFresco. 

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Lai co-founded Metis with Chief Operating Officer Wenshou Wang, Ph.D., a former MIT research scientist and co-founder of 3D printing startup Inkbit.

PICC PE and China Life led the series A, which included backers Sequoia Capital China, Lightspeed, 5Y Capital and other institutional investors.