Vividion Therapeutics, a biotech startup that received $50 million in backing earlier this year, just recruited a top biotech executive as CEO and appointed industry heavyweight Rich Heyman to its board.
The company announced Diego Miralles will lead the company as CEO. Miralles comes to the startup from Adaptive Therapeutics, where he served as president. Before that, Miralles was the global head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation (the arm that manages biotech incubator JLABS).
In addition to Miralles’ appointment, Vividion announced that Heyman will be joining its board of directors. Heyman is most noted for two enormous financial successes in San Diego. He co-founded Aragon Pharmaceuticals, which sold in 2013 for up to $1 billion to Johnson & Johnson. With the assets of Aragon that he didn’t sell, Heyman founded Seragon Pharmaceuticals, which sold in 2014 to Roche subsidiary Genentech for up to $1.7 billion.
Heyman currently serves on the board for ORIC Pharmaceuticals, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, UCSD Moores Cancer Center, Gritstone Oncology and San Diego-based Metacrine Inc.
Back in February, Vividion emerged from stealth mode with a $50 million infusion of cash from top-tier venture funds Arch Venture Partners and Versant Ventures. The company’s core tech was developed in the lab of Ben Cravatt, a scientist at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego.
Vividion aims to solve a bottleneck in translating research to therapies, Cravatt said in a February interview, potentially producing drugs that work better in animal and human trials.
As it stands today, drugs are screened and developed using protein targets that are produced in “non-native settings,” meaning that proteins are taken out of a cell, put into a test tube and then studied. The environment that the drug is developed in is artificial, and there’s a risk that results achieved in a test tube won’t translate to animal or human trials.
“You hope it will go back into the body and affect the protein the same way it affected it in the test tube,” Cravatt said. “Unfortunately, that process breaks down a lot.”
Vividion’s technology allows proteins to be studied inside their native systems — in whole cells, in tissues, and in organisms.
Cravatt and his colleagues have worked for years to reach these “undruggable” targets by finding previously undetectable cellular molecular interactions involved in disease processes.
“It’s imperative that biotech and pharmaceutical companies leverage the amazing amount of genetic information that’s emerged over the last half decade to select targets and programs for drug development,” Cravatt said. “That is the most telling information that can help us select targets with a higher degree of success.”