Believing a company is only as good as its people, Rib-X Pharmaceuticals Inc. raised about $22 million in its first round of financing to attract top-notch scientists for its anti-infectives platform.
“Research and development,” said Susan Froshauer, CEO of Rib-X, detailing the use of the round’s proceeds. “We have a very aggressive R&D plan. We want to hire the best people in the world and implement [it]. We’ve hired 11 people full time and we have an ambitious but promising plan to hire about 39 people in the next few months.”
Froshauer said there was a “huge swell of interest” from investors, putting New Haven, Conn.-based Rib-X in the “luxurious position” of playing pick and choose.
“It was an exciting experience because there was so much enthusiasm,” she said. “We ended up in the right place with a team of investors and the right amount of money to get done what we want to do.”
SR One Ltd./EuclidSR Partners, of New York, and Oxford Bioscience Partners, of Boston, were lead investors. Participating investors included ABS Ventures, of San Francisco; Axiom Ventures, of Hartford, Conn.; Cardinal Partners, of Princeton, N.J.; Connecticut Innovations, also of Hartford; and Zero Stage Capital, of Boston.
Rib-X has an exclusive license to the high-resolution crystal structure of the largest area of the bacterial ribosome, the 50S subunit. Froshauer, whose past experience includes time spent with New York-based Pfizer Inc.’s Strategic Alliances group, and six others founded Rib-X in the fall of 2000 and officially opened doors in July 2000. Besides the license for the crystal structure, co-founder William Jorgensen brings structure-based drug design software that should prove invaluable, Froshauer said.
“[The software] is definitely a very important piece,” she told BioWorld Today. “I do not want to omit the fact that Will Jorgensen has the perfect [computer tools] to take advantage of the crystal structure of the ribosome.” And, Froshauer noted, it is not available to the public.
Froshauer said the ribosome, integral in protein synthesis, provides a “validated target” for a new class of antibiotics.
“We know how to exploit that technology,” she said. “We have, for the first time, the road map to the design of a new antibiotic.”
The company’s initial focus is on broad-spectrum agents that work against drug-resistant organisms. Rib-X is in preclinical work now, designing new compounds with the loose goal of having them reach the clinic near the end of 2004.
Rib-X’s most notable achievements to date, besides the $22 million round, have been its hires, Froshauer said. It also has built a strong patent position, with “quite a few” applications submitted. But for a young company like Rib-X, she said, its near-term goals are similar to the ones it has already achieved: great hires.
“Our major goal is to build a multidisciplinary team,” she said. “Because of the magnitude of the ribosome as a structure, to harness it you need a team of chemists, computational [personnel] and biologists to work as a unit. That unit will be critical to our success. In addition, we will continue our interaction with our co-founding scientists to expand our technology base.”
She added, “After all my time with Pfizer, I’d place my bet on Rib-X, because I know we are going to discover a new class of antibiotics.”