Nimbus, Seeded by Bill Gates, Raises $24 Million For Computer-Aided Drug Discovery

Xconomy Boston — 

Nimbus Discovery burst out of stealth mode in March with seed funding from none other than Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. Now Nimbus, a Cambridge, MA-based company that specializes in computer-aided drug discovery, is chalking up a second impressive milestone: It has raised a Series A funding round of $24 million, with money from Gates and from lead investors Atlas Venture, SR One, and Lilly Ventures.

Atlas first formed Nimbus in 2009 based on a strategic partnership with Schrodinger, a New York and Portland, OR-based company co-founded by Columbia University professor Richard Friesner. The alliance provides Nimbus with access to computational drug-discovery tools developed by Schrodinger, which help uncover the methods by which drugs bind to certain disease targets. Nimbus has exclusive rights to key targets pinpointed by that technology.

Nimbus is rapidly advancing two drug-discovery programs. One target it is pursuing, an enzyme called ACC, may be important in cancer and metabolic diseases such as obesity.

The second target, called IRAK4, is a protein involved in Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and inflammation. Nimbus has already pinpointed promising drug-like compounds that target IRAK4 and shown proof-of-concept in early basic studies. “This occurred only 9 months after we initiated work on the target with a virtual screen,” says Jonathan Montagu, V.P. of business operations at Nimbus in an e-mail.

The new money will go towards both programs. The company’s scientists believe IRAK4’s role in inflammatory disease will allow them to pursue a range of therapeutic applications for the company’s drug candidates. Nimbus also plans to expand the pipeline to include new targets.

Nimbus’s slate of investors brings a broad and impressive range of expertise to the startup. “The Lilly Ventures team brings strong operational and scientific experience to the table along with the strategic relationship with Eli Lilly & Company,” Montagu says. “As a result, we believe that Lilly Ventures provides significant value-add beyond the pure capital investment.”

Steve Hall, a partner at Lilly Ventures, will join Nimbus’s board as part of the financing—an addition that will bring much more than financial expertise to the board, Montagu says. “Steve Hall is a talented medicinal chemist and has a strong track record of building value around important drug targets,” he says. “He is playing an active role in helping prosecute our lead programs.” Kent Gossett, a physician and partner at SR One, will also join the board.

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