Relay Therapeutics bags $400M to ramp up discovery and push into the clinic

Boston skyline from harbor
Relay Therapeutics divulged last December that it had four programs—all in oncology—with two lead programs racing each other toward the clinic. (usmc0491/Pixabay)

Two weeks after expanding its R&D team, Relay Therapeutics is reeling in a massive $400 million series C round to boost its platform technology and discovery efforts, build its pipeline and get into the clinic. 

The company worked quietly for about a year before launching out of Third Rock Ventures with a $57 million series A in September 2016. Its mission? To create new treatments against targets that were previously considered undruggable, with an initial focus on cancer. 

It’s doing so by “combining unprecedented computational power with leading edge experimental techniques in structural biology, biophysics, chemistry and biology” to understand how proteins move and how changes in their shape and structure regulate their function. Relay is looking to modulate these changes to create next-generation treatments for cancer.

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Relay Chairman Alexis Borisy likens this idea to watching a movie: “So what are we doing? To put it in the simplest terms, there is the classic phrase ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ well then a movie is worth thousands of pictures. So, you look at a still picture, you see a small set of information; but if you look at a movie of the same situation, you can understand so much more.” 

“By seeing the movie, you can see all sorts of new possibilities you never saw before about how to make new medicines. This also allows you to create drugs for targets that you couldn’t before,” Borisy said at launch, when he was serving as Relay’s interim CEO. 

In December last year, Relay picked up another $63 million and divulged that it had four programs—all in oncology—with two lead programs racing each other toward the clinic. At the time, CEO Sanjiv Patel, M.D., anticipated Relay would start clinical trials in early 2019, at which point the company will share more about its programs. 

RELATED: Relay adds executives to its chemistry, R&D teams as it transitions to the development stage

SoftBank Vision Fund led the latest financing, joining ForeSite Capital, Perceptive Advisors and Tavistock Group. Existing backers GV, Casdin Capital, BVF Partners, EcoR1 Capital, an affiliate of D. E. Shaw Research, and Alexandria Venture Investments all kept their hands in. 

“A financing of this magnitude allows Relay Therapeutics to significantly scale and advance both its platform and its pipeline. We are thrilled by the strong support of our investors for our mission, vision and strategy,” Borisy said in a statement.