Odyssey Therapeutics isn’t Gary Glick’s first biotech start-up. Or his second. It’s his fifth. The serial entrepreneur has earned a reputation for launching one company after another to develop small-molecule drugs for cancer and immune diseases. Many of those firms, working on popular targets including STING and the NLRP3 inflammasome, were quickly snatched up by larger firms. But Odyssey could be his biggest venture yet.
Today, Odyssey emerged from stealth with $218 million in series A financing to develop small-molecule drugs for cancer and inflammatory diseases. The large financing is a bet on Glick’s track record and the scientific management team he has assembled at Odyssey, which includes drug discovery leaders recruited from Bristol Myers Squibb, Merck & Co., Novartis, Revolution Medicines, and Vividion Therapeutics.
It’s Glick’s second company in just over a year. In October 2020, he launched Scorpion Therapeutics to develop small-molecule precision therapies for cancer. That start-up has raised $270 million across two financing rounds.
A number of Glick’s companies have been bought by other firms. Celgene acquired his cancer and autoimmune disease drug company Lycera in 2015. IFM Therapeutics, cofounded by Glick, has spun off STING and NLRP3 inflammasome drug programs into subsidiaries acquired by Bristol Myers Squibb and Novartis in deals worth about $300 million apiece. And in September this year, AzurRx BioPharma bought Glick’s firm First Wave Bio in a deal worth $229 million.
Odyssey was born from a series of conversations between Glick, an emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Carl L. Gordon, managing partner of the life sciences–focused venture capital firm OrbiMed Advisors, in March and April. Hiring began a couple months later.
Odyssey has since grown to more than 90 people, including 25–30 data scientists and about 15 medicinal, organic, or synthetic chemists, says Glick, who is the Boston-based firm’s founder, president, and CEO.
Glick says Odyssey has 7 active drug discovery programs, and he anticipates the firm’s first clinical trial will begin in late 2023 or early 2024. The initial program will focus on well-understood biological pathways to “minimize clinical attrition.” But he says “the lifeblood of the company” will ultimately be novel targets or targets “where people haven’t been able to come up with drugs before.”
Although Glick won’t disclose any of Odyssey’s drug targets, he says they will be different from ones he’s worked on at his previous companies. He’s also coy about what diseases the startup will focus on, saying that Odyssey is focused on “large-market indications” but not on diseases that he thinks are “already well served.”