PM360 2023 Innovative Startup Empress Therapeutics

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Empress Therapeutics

Programmable Small Molecule Drug Discovery

What if you could apply the power of the genetic code to discovering and making therapeutic chemistry? That was the question CEO Jason Park, Chief Innovation Officer Sabrina Yang, and fellow cofounders of Empress Therapeutics asked themselves six years ago. The answer is a platform that makes small molecule drug discovery more predictable, faster, and cost-effective.

At the root of Empress’ platform is the insight that instructions for making valuable small molecule drugs are written in genetic code (i.e., DNA encodes biosynthetic proteins, which then catalyze the formation of specific chemical compounds). The company calls its approach Chemilogics because it generates drug products with all the versatile attributes of small molecule chemistry by harnessing the genetic foundation and programmability of biologics.

By applying computational power and proprietary AI/ML algorithms to biosynthetic gene data sourced from the clinic, Empress quickly identifies not only novel compounds encoded by genes but also their associations to human health and disease. Its approach prioritizes drug-like compounds based on properties including molecular weight, potency, selectivity, and chemical and synthetic tractability. This chemistry-forward approach puts the emphasis on starting with drug leads—compounds that are closer to the finish line.

Empress officially launched in June 2023 with a portfolio of 15 drug leads that spans multiple structural classes and targets multiple classes of proteins, including cytokines, enzymes, G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), and ion channels. Over the next three years, the company plans to deliver the first wave of drug candidates to the clinic while expanding the platform to generate a broad pipeline of molecules to treat a vast range of diseases.

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