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Eikon Therapeutics closes $148M financing to develop super-resolution microscopy

06 May 2021

California-based firm to integrate advanced optics, machine learning with biochemistry; its target application is drug discovery.

Eikon Therapeutics, a Hayward, California-based company focused on live-cell super-resolution microscopy and engineering for drug discovery, has this week announced that it has closed a $148 million Series A financing round.

The funding is led by The Column Group with participation from Foresite Capital, Innovation Endeavors and Lux Capital. Eikon also announced the appointment of Roger M. Perlmutter, MD, PhD, as its new Chief Executive Officer.

Eikon’s drug discovery platform evolved from super-resolution microscopy, a ground-breaking approach to elucidating the behavior of proteins in live cells. Super-resolution microscopy was first developed by Eric Betzig, PhD, and collaborators, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2014 for this work.

Dr. Betzig, Xavier Darzacq, PhD, Luke Lavis, PhD, and Robert Tjian, PhD founded Eikon to industrialize this novel technology and to apply the tracking of protein dynamics to key applications across the drug discovery process.

In vivo observation

Dr. Darzacq, who in addition to serving as a co-founder of Eikon, is a Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, said, “Eikon was founded on the vision that observing protein movement in living cells will yield important biological insights enabling the discovery of therapies that could not otherwise be identified.

“Using an interdisciplinary approach that combines engineering and science, we have created an exciting new window into cell biology and pharmacology. With the addition of Roger’s depth of drug development experience, the Eikon team is poised to apply this unique platform to its best advantage in developing therapeutics with potentially significant benefits to patients.”

Prior to joining Eikon, Dr. Perlmutter was an executive vice president at Merck and president of Merck Research Laboratories. Under his R&D leadership, Merck received more than 100 regulatory approvals for its medicines and vaccines globally, including those for multiple cancers, diabetes, and infectious diseases.

Notably, Dr. Perlmutter helped Merck establish Keytruda as a foundational immunotherapy for cancer care. Prior to joining Merck, he was executive vice president and head of R&D at Amgen for more than a decade.

‘Inspiring’

“The pharmaceutical industry has long been limited in the tools available to study dynamic regulatory mechanisms in living cells,” said Dr. Perlmutter. “In this context, it is inspiring to see what Eikon has already accomplished by incorporating physics and engineering along with machine learning to complement traditional drug discovery approaches.

Leon Chen, PhD, Partner, The Column Group and Interim President at Eikon, commented, “Quantifying real-time protein dynamics in cells and translating these insights into drug discovery requires a unique collaboration of world-class chemists, physicists, biologists and engineers working in concert.”

“Under the leadership of Eikon CSO Dan Anderson; Senior Vice President of Engineering Russ Berman; and Xavier Darzacq, who served as interim CTO during the company’s first year, we have built a talented team that is successfully accomplishing this vision by bridging robotics and automation with drug discovery and high-performance computing,” he added.

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