Sequencing The World’s DNA for Novel Therapeutics
We are thrilled to announce that Two Sigma Ventures is investing in Hexagon Bio’s $47 million Series A alongside The Column Group, 8VC, and Luma Bio.
From the serendipitous discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming in 1928, scientists have been looking for other novel medicines made by microorganisms from natural products such as bacteria, fungi, and plants. In fact, close to 50% of today’s cancer drugs and over 70% of antibiotics are derived from small molecules from these living organisms. With cancer’s ability to outsmart many of our existing therapies and emergence of drug resistance in fungal and bacterial infections, we are in need of novel therapies now more than ever.
Hexagon Bio aims to solve this problem by employing the latest available genomics, bioinformatics, and synthetic biology tools to try to identify new therapeutics made by the vast array of natural products, orders of magnitude faster than existing approaches. Hexagon’s computational tools are able to identify sections of the genome that produce potent chemicals, while at the same time characterizing these chemicals’ targets. If those targets are relevant to curing a human disease, Hexagon’s synthetic biology tools could allow them to quickly extract the chemical and start testing it. Nature has had billions of years to perfect its arsenal of chemicals, and Hexagon has developed a way to quickly extract this accumulated knowledge and use it in an effort to cure human diseases. Given only a few thousand fungal genomes have been sequenced and studied to date, Hexagon will focus on the five million fungi genomes that haven’t, making this an enormous unexplored space ripe with potential opportunities for novel therapeutics.
Furthermore, Hexagon Bio has an impressive multi-disciplinary team that is emblematic of what’s possible when you combine biology and data science to advance targeted therapeutic treatments. Their CEO, Maureen Hillenmeyer is a selfless leader, who was previously A Director of Genomes to Natural Products Program at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The other co-founders are Brian Naughton, who was formerly a founding scientist at 23andme; Colin Harvey, who was formerly at a Scientist at the Stanford University School of Medicine; and Yi Tang, a Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UCLA. Together, they have a shot at creating the next generation of antibiotics and cancer treatments, potentially increasing the outcomes and quality of care for millions of patients.
We look forward to partnering with their entire team on this pursuit, as they continue to implement the latest computational approaches to find cures for human diseases—not by serendipity—but by systematic engineering and science-driven processes.