Up-and-Coming Relay Among 2020’s Hottest Biotechs

Cambridge-based Relay uses protein motion to develop novel therapies for cancers and other diseases. The company claims to be shifting the paradigm of drug discovery by combining biophysics, structural biology, computational technology, and more to transform patient care. Whereas most targeted drugs prevent molecules from binding to a protein’s active site, Relay seeks druggable targets anywhere within a protein, which can be quite the moving target.

In order to fund these ambitious projects, Relay raised $400 million in its IPO last Thursday, which was twice their initial intent. Selling 20 million shares at $20 each, they began the day already exceeding the $18-$19 anticipated range. By mid-afternoon, shares soared to $35, a 75% increase. This quick success gave them a spot amongst the largest biotech IPOs in history, next to such big names as Allogene, Moderna, and Legend Biotech.

The IPO comes after the company raised $520 million since its inception in 2015, including a $400 million Series C round in December of 2018. Relay’s largest shareholder is Japan’s SoftBank, who now holds more than a 40% stake in the company. Boston’s Third Rock Ventures purchased 20% of the shares, and New York’s Picularium LLC holds 5%.

Relay’s drug candidates have already been heading into clinical trials. Earlier this year, they were able to begin a phase 1 trial for the treatment of metastatic solid tumors. In the second half of 2020 they are expected to begin a clinical trial for yet another cancer drug.

While the global economy has gone through some heady peaks and troughs this year, biotechs continue to provide a beacon of hope for the market. The Nasdaq Biotech Index has shown an 18% increase since the beginning of the year, as people rush to pour money into vaccine research, telehealth technology, and medical devices that could hopefully bring an early end to the COVID-19 pandemic. Demand for many industries has plummeted, but advances in medical health provide a much-needed light at the end of a long and tiresome tunnel. Relay’s novel approach to precision medicine and computer models could keep them at the top of the game for many months to come.