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Genomic Drug Discovery Startup Warp Drive Launches with $125M from Sanofi, Other Backers

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Warp Drive Bio, a new firm that plans to apply a "genomic search engine" to identify new drugs in microbes, kicked off today with $125 million in initial financing from Sanofi, Third Rock Ventures, and Greylock Partners.

Under the terms of the financing agreement, Sanofi has the right to acquire Warp Drive in the future "if certain milestones are achieved." Nevertheless, the company said that it has been founded "as a fully independent company and retains strategic direction, operational management and full rights to select assets."

Under this model, the company will collaborate with Sanofi on drug discovery projects, "while also maintaining the ability to secure additional future partnerships to advance its programs."

Warp Drive was co-founded by Gregory Verdine, a professor of chemistry in Harvard University's department of stem cell and regenerative biology and a venture partner at Third Rock; George Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard; and James Wells, a professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of California, San Francisco.

The company said that the initial financing should support its research and development strategy for "at least the next five years."

Alexis Borisy, partner at Third Rock Ventures, will serve as interim CEO of the firm.

Warp Drive is applying genomics to the study of natural products in order to identify therapies targeting biological pathways that are currently considered undruggable. It uses its proprietary "genomic search engine" to identify potential candidates based on their unique genomic signatures.

The company said it is developing other technologies intended to induce the production of novel drug candidates and to determine their mode of action.

"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," co-founder Verdine said in a statement.

"By combining Warp Drive Bio's unique proprietary technology and Sanofi's extensive drug development capabilities, we are convinced that this open and creative model of pharma-biotech partnership will boost innovation for the benefit of patients," Elias Zerhouni, president of global research and development at Sanofi, added.

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