Sanofi to co-invest in Warp Drive Bio

Warp Drive Bio is focused on proprietary genomic technology to discover drugs of natural origin

French drugmaker Sanofi is co-investing in Warp Drive Bio, a start-up biotechnology company with two US venture capital firms, Third Rock Ventures (TRV) of Boston, Massachusetts, and Greylock Partners of Menl Park, California. Warp Drive Bio is focused on proprietary genomic technology to discover drugs of natural origin. The technology was conceived by Harvard University chemical biologist and TRV partner Gregory Verdine.

Joining Verdine as co-founders of Warp Drive Bio are George Church and Jim Wells.

Under the terms of the agreement, Sanofi and TRV/Greylock will invest in Warp Drive Bio at parity. Total programme funding over the first five years could reach US$125m, including an equity investment of up to $75m.

Sanofi will give Warp Drive Bio access to its strains library and natural product expertise and will be granted certain access rights to Warp Drive Bio’s technology and products, on a worldwide basis.

The Warp Drive Bio team has been assembling technologies to create a platform for identifying potential drug candidates using microbiology, next generation sequencing, bioinformatics and chemo-informatics. The firm’s integrated process pairs a genomic search engine and customised search queries that enable natural products hidden within micro-organisms to be identified on the basis of their distinctive genomic signature.

Warp Drive Bio remains an independent company and retains strategic direction, operational management and the right to develop and commercialise assets. This agreement enables Warp Drive Bio to advance its core r&d to proof of concept, while also maintaining the ability to secure additional partnerships.

‘Revolutionary advances in microbial genomics have provided the blueprints for nature’s factories that assemble natural products, and have revealed vast treasure troves of novel natural product drugs hidden within microbes,’ said Verdine.

‘Prior to Warp Drive Bio, no one had created a comprehensive discovery engine that selectively mines from nature those products with transformative pharmaceutical potential.

‘Warp Drive Bio has developed that capability and is using it to discover powerful next-generation drugs that target the central circuitry of human cells in completely new ways.’