Tyra Biosciences raised $50 million in early 2020 to get the ball rolling on a pipeline against drug-resistant cancers. Now, the company is gearing up to see its first program into clinical trials, and it’s banking $106 million and expanding its leadership team to get there.
The company hired a new chief medical officer, Hiroomi Tada, M.D., Ph.D., and chief development officer, Piyush Patel, Ph.D., and also promoted its vice president of medicinal chemistry, Robert Hudkins, Ph.D., to chief technology officer.
It will use the series C financing to ramp up its drug discovery technology, dubbed SNAP, as well as advance a pipeline of small molecules, with plans to pick its first development candidate this year and push it into the clinic next year. For now, the company is keeping mum on the targets it’s pursuing.
Tyra is taking aim at acquired resistance, a problem that makes targeted cancer treatments stop working. Over time, tumors with mutations such as EGFR rewire themselves to find a way around targeted therapies and continue to grow without relying on proteins made by the mutated gene.
Tyra is working to understand the specific molecular drivers that cause resistance so it can develop small-molecule drugs that work on both the mutated, or resistant, form of a protein and the original form against which targeted drugs were made.
Its SNAP technology speeds up traditional structure-based drug discovery. It uses X-ray crystallography to take “structural SNAPshots” of each potential drug as it makes them and to look at how they interact with their targets, Tyra CEO Todd Harris said.
“It allows us to look at each of the compounds that we are creating and how they modify, induce fit and interact with the binding site,” Harris said, referring to different ways a compound might behave at the binding site of its target enzyme.
“We feed that back to our medicinal chemists to quickly reroute and redesign the next phase of the compound … It’s not just about how the compound is performing in cells, but how it’s binding and what interactions that are driving that binding,” Harris added. “It’s the level of detail that differentiates us from others.”
The SNAP platform isn’t just about crystallography, though—there are several other pieces Tyra is using as it moves toward the clinic. Those includes animal models, cell-based assays and immortalized and engineered cell lines for measuring the on- and off-target effects of a given compound, Harris said.
Nextech Invest led the financing with new investors Cormorant Asset Management, BVF Partners, Janus Henderson Investors and Logos chipping in. A handful of Tyra's backers also joined in, including Alta Partners, RA Capital, Boxer Capital of Tavistock Group and Canaan.