BioPharma, Pharma

BMS joins Octant’s $80M financing and signs on as a drug discovery partner

Octant Bio’s synthetic biology approach to drug discovery is making progress, and the preclinical biotech has raised $80 million in Series B financing to continue the journey. The company added Bristol Myers Squibb as an investor and collaborator in the search for new immunology drugs.


Octant Bio set out on a journey to show that the convergence of synthetic biology, chemistry, and computational techniques could lead to new drugs for patients. That destination is still distant, but the biotech is making progress and it has picked up some new pieces for the journey.

Emeryville, California-based Octant announced an $80 million Series B round of financing on Wednesday. The investment includes cash from Bristol Myers Squibb, which has also signed on as a partner in the company’s drug research.

Octant, named for the nautical navigational instrument, discovers drugs by engineering cell lines, which the biotech uses to measure the biochemical activities of drug targets. Scientists then map those connections, showing the relationship of chemicals with those drug targets. Computational techniques guide the drug hunters through the data, informing the design of small molecules that could become Octant drug candidates.

Octant was co-founded by CEO Sri Kosuri, who is a former UCLA professor chemistry and biochemistry, and President Ramsey Homsany, a veteran of Google and Dropbox. In a Thursday blogpost, Kosuri and Homsany wrote that Octant had hit key milestones last year, showing that the company’s technology can yield small molecules capable of hitting multiple drug targets. They added that those molecules are showing effectiveness in important disease areas, though they did not specify those areas.

With the new cash, Octant plans to expand the company’s technology platform and build its drug pipeline. That research includes rare diseases characterized by mutations that lead to mistrafficking—a protein that goes to the wrong place. Octant is using its technology to develop small molecule “chaperones” to correct the mistrafficking. This drug research is focused on rare genetic diseases. The BMS alliance is focused on inflammation-related pathway. Neither the targets of that research nor the financial terms of the alliance were disclosed.

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Octant closed a $30 million Series A financing round when it launched in 2020. To date, the company says it has raised $115 million total. The Series B financing was led by Catalio Capital Management. Besides BMS, other participants in the round include earlier investors Andreessen Horowitz Bio Fund, Allen & Co., and 50 Years VC.

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