Announcing Our Investment In Eikon Therapeutics — A New Dawn In Drug Discovery
By Dror Berman
It is human nature to ask “Why.” Over the course of time, we have examined life’s biggest questions more and more closely. This has led to core scientific understandings about our world: the discovery of penicillin and antibiotics; the development of the central dogma of molecular biology; the sequencing of the human genome; the advent of gene editing, and more.
In recent decades, scientists have made enormous breakthroughs in how we’re able to explain, decode, and see life’s building blocks. But research methods are still falling short in several major ways. We have more ways to sample granular and quantitative information from the biological world, but scientists are forced to produce proxy measurements that don’t capture the full complexity of biology. We can investigate living specimens, but mostly as snapshots in time that don’t reflect their dynamic movements in the world. These research limitations produce imperfect data, and that imperfect data becomes the basis to determine the fate of new drug treatments with programs that may cost many hundreds of millions of dollars.
With Eikon Therapeutics, drug discovery and development enters a new era.
Eikon Therapeutics’ team has discovered — for the first time ever — how to peer inside living cells and observe the dynamics of single particles (in this case proteins) in their native state. With Eikon, it’s possible to quantitatively measure the impact of a small molecule on the kinetics of a protein, rather than make a best guess based on a snapshot in time.
Eikon unlocks an entirely new class and granularity of data in the life sciences at an unprecedented scale. To do this, Eikon uses its proprietary platform that leverages super-resolution microscopy along with latest advances in biology, chemistry, engineering and machine learning. The combination of these technologies make it possible for Eikon to develop and bring novel drug therapies to the world. The implications of these breakthroughs are so great and broad that it’s practically inconceivable to think ahead to the impact we foresee.
Eikon’s platform opens the door for us to visualize the behavior and movement of individual biological molecules to reveal novel insights about disease biology and targets for drug discovery. It allows us to combine the value of both phenotypic drug screening with target-based assays to measure the impact of a potential therapeutic in a live cell. We see a world where Eikon pursues important drug targets at a resolution and scale not previously possible, resulting in discoveries for even the most challenging targets, such as protein-protein interactions.
Eikon is a perfect example of the Super Evolution in action. Super-resolution microscopy at the scale done by Eikon Therapeutics is an engineering feat that makes it possible to track hundreds of thousands of potential therapeutic compounds for their impact on dynamics of individual proteins in a cell, which generates terabytes of data in every experiment. Eikon then uses powerful computing techniques to help make sense of the multitude of possibilities. The combination of microscopy, new data about single particle movements, and machine learning makes it possible to quickly conduct and refine R&D cycles, which accelerates the discovery of new solutions for the world. This is the essence of the Super Evolution in practice.
As excited as we are about Eikon’s breakthroughs, we are proud to stand beside such an illustrious founding team that brings together experts (and a Nobel prize winner!) in microscopy, cellular dynamics, biochemistry and biomolecular physics. When we first met them, we were blown away by the founding team: Robert “Tij” Tjian, biotech pioneer; Eric Betzig, Nobel-prize-winning microscopist and physicist; Xavier Darzacq, UC Berkeley associate professor of molecular and cell biology; Luke Lavis, chemist at the Janelia Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Now that Eikon is coming out of stealth, we are excited by their choice of a new leader, CEO Roger Perlmutter, a pre-eminent scientist and former head of R&D at Amgen and Merck who brings decades of drug discovery and development expertise to Eikon. Eikon’s top-tier Scientific Advisory Board includes some of the world’s leading thinkers in life sciences, computation, and engineering, including Innovation Endeavors’ own Eric Schmidt alongside Fei Fei Li, Tom Cech, Juan Jaen, Larry Lasky and Robert Tjian.
Congrats to the team at Eikon on your launch — we are excited to stand alongside you as you push forth new discoveries about the inner-workings of life.