Tiny Synthorx raises $10M for synthetic amino acid trials

California-based synthetic biology player Synthorx has raised $10 million in a Series B round as it looks to bring what it sees as its “ground-breaking technology” into the clinic.

The Series B was led by RA Capital Management and joined by first-round investors Avalon Ventures and Correlation Ventures. 

As is common practice from lead investors in startups, Dr. Andrew Levin--the managing director of RA Capital Management--will be joining Synthorx’s board as part of his firm’s cash injection.

The biotech’s big idea is the use of synthetic biology, specifically using more cost-effective and efficient platforms to produce proteins that cannot be made via normal methods.

The cash boost will spur on the development and scale-up of new protein treatments that include at least one synthetic amino acid, the biotech said.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which essentially carry out life's functions. Creating a synthetic amino acid produces a unique structure that can considerably increase the effectiveness of therapeutic peptides and proteins. This is not a new concept in biotechnology research, but the costs and scale of creating these have been a barrier.   

“The ability to incorporate synthetic or non-natural amino acids into proteins is not new,” explained Dr. Levin in a release. “What we believe is new and truly ground-breaking about Synthorx’s technology is the ability to efficiently produce a variety of proteins containing multiple synthetic amino acids at the necessary scale and cost of goods for drug discovery and development.”

Court Turner, president and CEO of Synthorx, explained in the release that there are many peptide and protein therapeutic programs coming out of the industry, but they “stall because they can't be scaled in a manner amenable to drug development and commercialization. The breakthrough of having a living cell replicate and maintain a third base pair is not just about creating something new. It's about being able to make better protein therapeutics at the right scale and for the right cost, so patients can access these improved medicines.

“Synthetic amino acids have a wide diversity of characteristics that can be leveraged to improve delivery, potency, efficacy, selectivity, and efficiency of protein therapeutics. They can also be leveraged to precisely modify the protein and deliver a homogeneous product. By genetically encoding for the site-specific incorporation of select synthetic amino acids, we can create entirely novel proteins with greatly enhanced properties and enable a new generation of tailored protein therapeutics.”

The biotech was founded on discoveries coming out of the lab of Dr. Floyd Romesberg at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA.

A lot of biopharma companies and startups are already looking to get in on synthetic biology--a field that could be worth as much as $40 billion by the decade’s end, according to figures from Allied Marketing Research. In recent years, a lot of this research has focused on antibiotic work using this tech.

But it’s not been an easy road for some, and earlier this year Intrexon ($XON) saw former partner AmpliPhi walk away from its synthetic biology tie-up after failing to see the upside to its research.

- check out the release

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