Every month, MassBio spotlights a member company and the great work they’re doing to advance the life sciences industry and support the patients we serve. In January, we spoke with Sree Kant, the founder and CEO of BAKX Therapeutics. Before founding BAKX, Sree headed the investments and partnerships function at Life Biosciences, led early partnering strategy for Pfizer, and was a principal at the Boston Consulting Group. Sree has an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, and an MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Tell us about your organization, its mission, and current initiatives
BAKX is a privately held biotechnology company based in Boston and New York. We are unlocking the full therapeutic potential of the mitochondrial apoptosis pathway that controls cell life and death. Our aim is to treat cancer and age-related disease with greater precision for better efficacy and reduced toxicity.
Our company brings together deep pathway knowledge and unparalleled leadership in both computational and traditional drug discovery in our CoDynX™ Drug Discovery Platform, which enables us to target conformationally dynamic proteins (CDPs) of therapeutic interest. These are critically important in disease biology but have been historically challenging to drug because they shapeshift and/or have binding sites that are difficult to identify using traditional methods.
There are many CDPs that represent potentially interesting and novel drug targets across numerous diseases and lie along already-validated pathways, such as the apoptosis pathway. In applying world-leading computational drug discovery capability with deep pathway knowledge, we can make very precise predictions about how to design novel, superior therapeutics.
How will your organization’s activities help patients now and into the future?
Our lead drug program focuses on activation of the BAX protein within the mitochondrial apoptosis pathway; it has the potential to significantly improve on standard of care approaches and introduce a new treatment paradigm for both blood cancers and solid tumors. In addition, when used alone or in combination with approved therapeutics, it could potentially reduce treatment resistance.
Our programs include:
- BT-001: an oral small molecule activator program targeting the BCL-2 associated protein-X (BAX). This protein is active in leukemias and lymphomas as well as select solid tumors. The program is being co-developed in partnership with Ipsen SA.
- BT-002: a small molecule program with a novel approach to inhibiting the BCL-XL protein to avoid platelet toxicity associated with historical BCL-XL inhibitors.
- BT-003: a discovery program focused on inhibiting the BAX protein (mechanism recently validated in the clinic for ALS); we are targeting various age-related diseases with this program, including neuro and ocular disease.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the life sciences industry today?
One of the key challenges is to create an equal opportunity space for founder-led biotechs and diversity of ideas. Unlike in other industries, most biotech startups are founded by professional biotech-building shops, as opposed to founders-entrepreneurs, driving a focus on exits rather than a longer-term focus to make drugs. This at times leads to a herd mentality with all investments going to the hot topic of the season, leaving other good practical science behind. Promoting founder-led biotech and creating incentives that enable companies to discover and develop drugs, versus chasing the next quick exit, can help advance the critical science needed to make a real difference to patients.
What’s next for your organization / what are you focused on in the coming year?
BAKX has successfully attracted talent across our entire organization. Our leadership team brings unparalleled pathway and computational discovery expertise. Our newest SAB member Marina Konopleva, MD, PhD, has consulted on the development of multiple approved drugs targeting BCL-2 proteins and brings a depth of knowledge and expertise in AML.
We’re also leveraging the extensive pathway expertise and work of our scientific co-founders, Loren D. Walensky, MD, PhD, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and Evripidis Gavathiotis, PhD, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, who uncovered novel biological understanding around the direct activation of cell death. Our chief computational scientist Yibing Shan, a founding member of DE Shaw Research, invented the field of computational drug discovery and many of the tools needed for elucidating CDPs.
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