MARCH 15, 2024

Relation Therapeutics: Revolutionizing Drug Development & the Impact of AI and DeepTech on the Future of Medicine

In 1983 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was discovered. In 2003, scientists produced the first sequence of the human genome. By 2012, CRISPR editing arrived on the scene, allowing for efficient gene editing. More than ten years later in 2023 we saw the landmark approval of the first CRISPR therapy.

Just as the discoveries of PCR and CRISPR marked transformative milestones for science and society, the recent years have been defined by the groundbreaking advancements in generative artificial intelligence (AI) and large language models (LLMs). In 1950, Alan Turing published his influential essay, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” where he imagined the possibility of computers created to simulate intelligence and machines capable of learning. AI has changed dramatically since the days of Alan Turing, and the growth over the past two years indicates that a positive impact on drug development and human health will not take a decade. In fact, it’s already happening at Magnetic portfolio company Relation Therapeutics and beyond.

Relation represents a new path to drug discovery and a new breed of Techbio companies focused on deploying technology to drive innovation in life sciences. Where biotech companies prioritize de-risked areas of biology, Techbio uses computation, massive datasets, machine learning (ML) algorithms, and AI to prioritize best case outcomes with the highest likelihood of data-driven success.

Magnetic led Relation’s initial seed financing in 2021 and has witnessed the company’s impressive progress, including the build out of its technology platform, opening of it’s wet /dry laboratory in London’s Knowledge Quarter, and the launch of Osteomics, a clinical observation study to create the world’s largest functional, single-cell bone atlas derived from human patient tissue. Today we celebrate their $35M of new financing led by DCVC and co-led by N Ventures, NVIDIA’s investment arm with participation from ARK Invest, Deerfield Management and existing investors Magnetic, Kholsa, and Abcam founder Jonthan Milner, among others.

Drug Discovery: Today’s Challenges

In the vast and complex landscape of drug development, the promise of exponential growth akin to that of information technologies has remained largely unfulfilled. Instead, the industry has witnessed an inverse trend, where the costs associated with developing new therapeutic solutions have soared to $2B per target. Traditional approaches of drug discovery and development are marred by inefficiencies and a lack of predictability. The process has predominantly relied on blind subject screening, uninformed trial-and-error methods, and a qualitative understanding of biology, which not only extend the timeframes and elevate the costs but also diminish the probabilities of success, as evident by the 90% failure rate.

These statistics are unimaginable in a world where technology has revolutionized the way we communicate, shop, travel, and most other aspects of life.

The rapid development of OpenAI’s LLMs, from GPT2 in 2019 to GPT4 in a span of just more than three years, exemplifies the exponential pace of technological innovation, a trend now poised to revolutionize the biotech sector. This leap forward, marked by the integration of AI, omics, and single-cell sequencing, heralds a new era in drug development. Magnetic’s founding investment thesis was that these technologies would impact and improve every aspect of healthcare. Our commitment is fueled by the potential to transform drug discovery and development, mirroring ChatGPT’s record-setting growth trajectory. We believe Relation, known for its “ChatGPT-like” predictive capabilities in DNA analysis, is poised to be a pioneer.

Relation Therapeutics

Relation is as a prime example of innovation in action, embracing a lab-in-the-loop strategy that harnesses predictive and generative AI to map out relational graphs spanning the entire spectrum of biomedical knowledge. Their approach, from unraveling molecular insights to decoding phenotypic nuances, facilitates the generation, analysis, and interpretation of human data, shedding new light on the behaviors of genes, cells, and tissues. This is particularly pivotal in tackling diseases such as osteoporosis, the company’s first area of focus, which has been devoid of novel therapeutic breakthroughs for more than three decades.

Central to Relation’s ethos is the principle that patient welfare should dictate the direction of discovery efforts. By leveraging human genetics and proprietary multi-omics datasets derived directly from patient tissues, the team crafts detailed maps of disease biology and cellular disease models, enriching our understanding of clinical phenotypes. Relation excels in its application of high-performance experimental and computational techniques. This includes marrying target validation with advanced methods such as spatial transcriptomics, sequencing, and tissue profiling. A key to their success has been a strategic alliance with NVIDIA, leveraging its hyperscale computing capabilities to enhance their leading-edge machine learning platforms.

Building such transformative companies is an intricate process and an art, which requires assembling a team of biologists with an intimate understanding of disease mechanisms, and computer scientists skilled in the nuances of advanced technology and machine learning. As we wrote in our first post regarding Relation and witnessed the past several years working closely with the Relation team, they exemplify this harmonious integration. We couldn’t be prouder to partner with the Relation team.

Relation’s mission is to revolutionize drug development, always with the patient’s needs at the forefront. This commitment is echoed in the broadened perspective that AI offers a bridge across biology’s diverse scales, from molecular intricacies to single-cell omics and disease phenotypes, moving towards a more quantitative understanding of biology.

We’ve never been more excited about the opportunity to accelerate drug discovery, deliver new therapies to patients quicker, and improve overall patient care — this is what makes us so excited to work with Relation and our co-investors. As Relation says, the patient is waiting.

The Magnetic Team

Christine Aylward, Jillian Shaw, Ph.D, Umut Eser, Ph.D.