Discovering more precise ways to deploy radiopharmaceuticals against solid tumors
The largest family of molecules that transmit biochemical signals across cell membranes are called G‑protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), and for reasons we don’t fully understand, tumor cells express more GPCRs on their surfaces than healthy cells. Scientists see that as an opportunity: if they could design small molecules that attach selectively to these over-expressed GPCRs, they could use the molecules to target diseased cells with payloads such as radionuclides for medical imaging and radiation therapy.
And in fact, that’s precisely what San Diego-based Radionetics Oncology is doing, by unifying hundreds of person years of GPCR design expertise and unique AI algorithms for designing and vetting safe and effective GPCRs. Here at DCVC Bio we’re pleased to be part of a Series A financing round for the company, announced this week. We co-led the $52.5 million round with Frazier Life Sciences and 5AM Ventures, with participation from Crinetics and GordonMD.
Radiotherapy has long been a cornerstone in the fight against cancer, offering hope and healing to millions worldwide. This field, which harnesses the power of radiation to kill cancer cells, has evolved from traditional beam radiation therapy to targeted tissue-specific radiotherapy that kills cancer cells by building special molecules that deliver radionuclides to the cells. At one end of these molecules is a targeting group such as a peptide that binds to a cancer cell; at the other end is a radioisotope, whose radiation damages the cancer cell’s DNA, causing the cell to die.
Large pharmaceutical companies are paying attention to the radiotherapy industry — and making key acquisitions. Novartis acquired AAA and Endocyte for a combined $6.0 billion, Eli Lilly acquired Point Biopharma for $1.4 billion, and BMS acquired RayzeBio for $4.1 billion. In a few years following the launch of Novartis’ Lutathera and Pluvicto, the two drugs generated over $1 billion in sales and have demonstrated the clinical utility and commercial prospects of radiotherapeutic agents.
In this dynamic landscape, Radionetics is carving out a niche with its groundbreaking approach to cancer treatment. The company leverages its extensive experience with GPCRs and its advanced software and evaluation process to develop both radionuclide-based therapeutics and imaging agents.
The company’s approach uses their common GPCR platform for a unified path integrating precision-guided diagnostics and treatment. It starts with precise imaging from their ultra-targeted GPCRs to confirm targeting of the correct cancer tissues. This initial focus on accurate imaging allows for informed and effective application of their GPCR-enabled radionuclide therapies. The strategic progression from imaging to treatment enables quick adjustments if needed, accelerating development and reducing risks in clinical trials. This streamlined, stepwise approach enhances both the precision and efficacy of Radionetics’ cancer treatments, with the objective of faster, safer, more cost-effective therapy for more patients, with better quality of life.
The leadership team at Radionetics carries a wealth of GPCR drug development expertise through their tenures at Neurocrine (NASD: NBIX), Crinetics (NASD: CRNX), Structure Therapeutics (NASD: GPCR), and Bird Rock Bio (acquired by Skye Bioscience) where Radionetics’ principals invented drugs such as Orilissa and paltusotine. The team also includes veterans of radiopharmaceutical drug development and manufacturing, unique skill sets that are key to radiopharmaceuticals.
By combining this expertise in GPCR medicinal chemistry and radioisotopes, alongside proprietary, computationally derived insights, Radionetics is establishing a unique position in the industry with a proprietary pipeline targeting various cancers in multi-billion-dollar markets. Notably, Radionetics differentiates itself by focusing on a unique set of targets, unlike many companies in the space that are primarily focused on the same two or three targets.
The capital infusion for Radionetics will fuel the company’s growth and help establish Radionetics as a leader in radiopharmaceuticals. We’re proud to be able to help them on their journey toward providing more targeted and effective treatments for cancer.
Dr. Eric Shiozaki is a Partner at DCVC Bio. Anna Fokina is an Investment Director at DCVC Bio.