June 21, 2023
Flagship Pioneering Unveils Empress Therapeutics to Revolutionize Drug Discovery by Applying the Power of Genetics to Identify Small Molecule Drugs
- Empress’s ChemilogicsTM product platform creates small molecule drugs quickly and cost-effectively
- The company emerges after two years of platform development with an initial commitment of $50 million from Flagship Pioneering
- Empress has identified and characterized 15 potential small molecule drugs in less than two years; it expects to file multiple Investigational New Drug (IND) applications within the next 24 months
- Murray McKinnon, Ph.D., former Global Head of J&J’s World Without Disease Accelerator and Head of Immunology Discovery within Janssen Pharmaceuticals, appointed Chief Scientific Officer
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., June 21, 2023 – Flagship Pioneering, the bioplatform innovation company, today unveiled Empress Therapeutics. Empress’s proprietary ChemilogicsTM product platform creates drugs by understanding how the genetic code programs cells in the human body to produce chemical compounds called metabolites, a rich source of potential small molecule medicines. The company is initially focused on metabolites produced by commensal bacteria and uses a proprietary suite of computational and genetic technologies to create small molecule compounds with favorable drug properties. This approach systematically generates promising small molecule drug candidates at unprecedented speed. In less than two years, with a team of less than 30 people, Empress has generated 15 molecules, across multiple target classes, for multiple indications. The company expects to file multiple IND applications in the next 24 months.
Flagship has made an initial commitment of $50 million to support the development of Empress’s platform and the company’s initial pipeline of drug candidates. Empress also announced that global pharmaceutical leader, Murray McKinnon, Ph.D., who has delivered 30 clinical candidates across multiple therapeutic modalities and disease areas and supported the development of multiple marketed products, will lead the company’s R&D efforts as Chief Scientific Officer.
“Small molecules are the most versatile class of medicines. Despite their advantages, however, finding small molecule compounds that are qualified to be drugs is unpredictable, time-consuming, and expensive,” said Doug Cole, M.D., Managing Partner at Flagship Pioneering, Co-Founder and Chairman of Empress Therapeutics’ Board of Directors. “Empress overcomes these obstacles by linking gene pathways to small molecule compounds. This unique approach makes it possible to find high quality drug candidates faster and more predictably than has previously been possible.”
“Biosynthetic genes are essentially lines of DNA code that program cells in our bodies to produce metabolites,” explained Jason Park, Ph.D., Co-Founder and CEO of Empress Therapeutics and Operating Partner at Flagship Pioneering. “Over the past several decades, the programmability of the DNA code has made it possible to create biologic drug candidates predictably and quickly. In much the same way, we can now apply the programmability of the DNA code to create small molecule drugs predictably and quickly.”
The company calls its approach Chemilogics because it creates products with the valuable attributes of small molecule chemical compounds by harnessing the genetic foundation of biologics. In less than two years, the company has made 15 drug leads. These compounds span multiple structural classes and target multiple classes of proteins, including cytokines, enzymes, G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), and ion channels. They have the potential to address unmet needs in multiple indications, in areas including immune and inflammatory, metabolic, neurologic, oncologic, and pain disorders.
Dr. Park continued, “Empress’s mission is to make a lot of great small molecule medicines fast. We believe we are well on our way to realizing this mission. Our expanding pipeline puts us in a position to file multiple IND applications within the next 24 months. Murray McKinnon’s experience discovering and successfully advancing dozens of drug compounds brings invaluable expertise to our efforts to turn these and many more compounds from our platform into impactful medicines.”
“Advances in genomics, synthetic and molecular biology, and computation transformed how we find and make biologic medicines by unlocking speed, precision, and predictability,” said Noubar Afeyan, Ph.D., Co-Founder of Empress Therapeutics and Founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering. “Empress offers a transformative proposition because it takes the same underlying logic and technologies and applies them to small molecules, a class of medicines that, through their versatility, continues to offer tremendous value in improving human health.”
In addition to Afeyan, Cole, and Park, the founding team of Empress Therapeutics includes Flagship Principal Sabrina Yang, Ph.D., who serves as its Chief Innovation Officer and Flagship Executive Partner John Mendlein, Ph.D., J.D., who serves on the Board of Directors.
About Empress Therapeutics
Founded by Flagship Pioneering in 2020, Empress Therapeutics generates good medicines, fast, by starting with chemistry inside the human body. The Empress ChemilogicsTM platform uses novel insights that connect the lines of code in DNA with drug-like chemistry made in the human body to create first- or best-in-class oral medicines for a broad range of diseases quickly, predictably, and cost-effectively.
About Flagship Pioneering
Flagship Pioneering conceives, creates, resources, and develops first-in-category bioplatform companies to transform human health and sustainability. Since its launch in 2000, the firm has, through its Flagship Labs unit, applied its unique hypothesis-driven innovation process to originate and foster more than 100 scientific ventures, resulting in more than $100 billion in aggregate value. To date, Flagship has deployed over $3.1 billion in capital toward the founding and growth of its pioneering companies alongside more than $19 billion of follow-on investments from other institutions. The current Flagship ecosystem comprises 43 transformative companies, including Denali Therapeutics (NASDAQ: DNLI), Foghorn Therapeutics (NASDAQ: FHTX), Generate Biomedicines, Inari, Indigo Agriculture, Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA), Omega Therapeutics (NASDAQ: OMGA), Sana Biotechnology (NASDAQ: SANA), Seres Therapeutics (NASDAQ: MCRB) and Tessera Therapeutics.
Lindy Devereux, Flagship Pioneering, email@example.com