RuiYi, Inc. announced today a $15 million Series B financing by existing investors: 5AM Ventures, Versant Ventures, Apposite Capital, SR One, the independent corporate healthcare venture capital fund of GlaxoSmithKline, Merck Serono Ventures, the strategic corporate venture fund of Merck Serono, and Aravis SA. RuiYi has a pipeline of innovative monoclonal antibodies to previously untargeted G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) for important global, therapeutic needs.
The financing will support the continued development of RuiYi's lead asset, RYI-008, a novel anti-IL-6 monoclonal antibody (mAb), and the discovery and development of new therapeutic mAbs targeting GPCRs, including a first-in-class mAb to cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB-1), a commercially validated but previously intractable drug target. In addition, RuiYi expanded the leadership team, appointing Erik Karrer, Ph.D. as chief scientific officer and Brian Campion, Ph.D. as vice president of business development.
"RuiYi has a powerful antibody drug discovery platform and a unique approach to exploring and selectively targeting GPCRs as important therapeutic intervention points," said Andy Schwab, co-founder and managing partner of 5AM Ventures. "RuiYi's strategy to develop novel therapeutics in an emerging market is a unique opportunity to address a large and underserved patient population who have not had access to biologic therapies."
RuiYi's iCAPS, the leading GPCR drug discovery platform, can isolate and present functional GPCRs in their correct conformation to identify selective antibody inhibitors or activators with great specificity for more effective therapeutics. RuiYi's first drug candidate, RYI-008, a novel anti-IL-6 monoclonal antibody, has a unique pharmacologic profile with the potential to define a new paradigm in the treatment of autoimmune diseases and cancer. Last year, RuiYi announced a collaboration with Genor BioPharma to develop the antibody in China. In addition, from iCAPS, RuiYi has identified another drug candidate, RYI-018, which is highly specific and selective to CB-1, a known therapeutically relevant and commercially validated GPCR target.
"GPCRs are well-recognized to be relevant in human disease and are significant therapeutic targets, but traditional methods could not adequately explore GPCRs as drug targets, especially if the GPCR has a small extracellular domain," said Mr. Grayson. "From RuiYi's iCAPS platform, we have been able to generate a fully functional antagonist to CB-1, a commercially validated GPCR target that could provide important therapeutic opportunities via a monoclonal antibody approach. With this support from our investors, we will advance RYI-018 through protein engineering for IND enabling studies."
GPCRs are a valuable class of targets for therapeutic intervention with approximately 30 percent of today's approved drugs modulating these proteins. Many GPCRs remain underexplored as therapeutic targets because selective targeting GPCRs and their transmembrane nature have not been amenable to classical drug discovery techniques.
Mr. Grayson concluded, "With this support from our investors, we have expanded our team and will advance RYI-018 through protein engineering for IND enabling studies and move RYI-008 into clinical trials in China. To meet their medical needs, China needs more than biosimilars, they need new, innovative therapeutics. We see our drug development strategy in China as a way to take a lead in creating new innovative medicines that could help patients around the world."