Inception Therapeutics is a multi-disciplinary discovery engine founded in 2011 with Versant Ventures to build and launch transformative new biotechnology companies. Inception’s integrated chemistry, biology and DMPK expertise and capabilities coupled with a successful track record have enabled Inception to become an established leader in new company creation.
Scientific Advisory Board
Carolyn Bertozzi is the Baker Family Director of Stanford ChEM-H and the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Humanities and Sciences in the Department of Chemistry at Stanford University. She is also an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Her research focuses on profiling changes in cell surface glycosylation associated with cancer, inflammation and infection, and exploiting this information for development of diagnostic and therapeutic approaches, most recently in the area of immuno-oncology. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She also has been awarded the Lemelson-MIT Prize, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize, among many others.
Benjamin F. Cravatt
Dr. Cravatt is a Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Gilula Chair Chemical Biology at The Scripps Research Institute.
His research group is interested in understanding the roles that enzymes play in physiological and pathological processes, especially as pertains to the nervous system and cancer. To address this challenge, they develop and apply an array of genetic, pharmacological, and proteomic/metabolomic technologies. The Cravatt group has obtained fundamental insights into the chemical, biochemical, and physiological workings of several important mammalian serine hydrolases, including enzymes involved in the neurobiology of pain and cancer metabolism and malignancy.
Dr. Cravatt obtained his undergraduate education at Stanford University, receiving a B.S. in the Biological Sciences and a B.A. in History. He then trained with Drs. Dale Boger and Richard Lerner and received a Ph.D. in Macromolecular and Cellular Structure and Chemistry from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in 1996. Professor Cravatt joined the faculty at TSRI in 1997 as a member of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology in the departments of Cell Biology and Chemistry. Dr. Cravatt is a co-founder and scientific advisor of Activx Biosciences, Abide Therapeutics and Vividion Therapeutics. His honors include a Searle Scholar Award (1998-2001), the Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry (2004), a Cope Scholar Award (2005), the Irving Sigal Young Investigator Award (2007), the Tetrahedron Young Investigator Award in Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry (2008), a MERIT award from the National Cancer Institute (2009), Robert M. Scarborough Award (2017), Jeremy Knowles Award (2019), AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemisty in Cancer Research and inducted member of the National Academy of Sciences (2014) as well as being elected as a member of the National Academy of Inventors (2015), American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2016), and the National Academy of Medicine (2017).
Nathanael S. Gray, Ph.D.
Nathanael Gray is the Nancy-Lurie Marks Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Nathanael leads the Dana Farber Program in Chemical Biology and manages a research laboratory. Previously, Nathanael was the Director of Biological Chemistry at the Novartis Institute for Genomics (GNF) in San Diego where he supervised a group of over fifty researchers integrating chemical, biological and pharmacological approaches towards the development of new experimental drugs including ceritinib, siponimod and ABL001. Dr. Gray received his PhD in organic chemistry from Professor Peter Schultz at the University of California at Berkeley in 1999 after receiving his BS degree with the highest honor award from the same institution in 1995.
Nathanael has pioneered pharmacological approaches to inhibit protein kinases that become dysregulated in cancer and other diseases. His research has advanced chemistry and biology and has transformed medicine. His development of innovative strategies for kinase inhibition has enabled discovery of first‐in‐class inhibitors that have become widely used as tools to elucidate kinase function in biological systems and resulted in the development of clinical candidates and approved drugs. Nathanael also pioneered the development of covalent compounds that target unique cysteine residues to achieve selectivity across the approximately 520 human kinases. He developed the first ATP‐competitive inhibitors of mTOR that were used to discover that mTOR regulates protein translation and cell growth more profoundly than previously anticipated. While conventional kinase inhibitors target the nucleotide binding pocket, Nathanael discovered allosteric inhibitors of BCR‐ABL that are being used to treat Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia ﴾CML﴿. Nathanael discovered that a subset of patients with lung cancer harbor an EML4‐ALK fusion protein and developed the first drugs against this target, one that is a marketed drug. Following this, Dr. Gray developed the concept of ‘mutant‐selective’ kinase inhibitors which resulted in the development of a new class of EGFR inhibitors currently approved for the treatment of lung cancer. Nathanael contributed to the development of the concept of ‘transcriptional addiction’, the need for certain cells to maintain a high level of transcription of specific genes and has identified kinases that are critical to this process and therefore represent a new type of molecular vulnerability for specific cancers. Nathanael has contributed to the field of small molecule induced protein degradation and has developed new strategies and approaches for efficiently discovering new degrader molecules.
These contributions have been recognized through numerous awards including the National Science Foundation’s Career award in 2007, the Damon Runyon Foundation Innovator award in 2008, the American Association for Cancer Research for Team Science in 2010 and for Outstanding Achievement in 2011, the American Chemical Society award for Biological Chemistry in 2011, and the Nancy Lurie Marks endowed professorship in 2015.
Dr. Morrison is founding Director of the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (since 2011) and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator (since 2000). He holds the Mary McDermott Cook Chair in Pediatric Genetics and the Kathryne and Gene Bishop Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Research at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
The Morrison laboratory studies the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate stem cell function and the role these mechanisms play in cancer. They identified a series of mechanisms that act intrinsically within stem cells to promote stem cell maintenance and tissue regeneration in multiple tissues. The Morrison lab also identified niches (specialized microenvironments) that maintain stem cells in adult hematopoietic tissues, including the bone marrow. They also identified the skeletal stem cells in adult bone marrow and new mechanisms by which they maintain and repair the skeleton. The Morrison lab also studies pathological cell replication, particularly the mechanisms that regulate metastasis. They discovered that the survival of melanoma cells during metastasis is limited by oxidative stress. Rare metastasizing cells survive by undergoing metabolic changes that confer oxidative stress resistance. Melanoma appears to metastasize first through lymphatics because the lymphatics protect melanoma cells from oxidative stress.
Dr. Morrison completed a B.Sc. in biology and chemistry at Dalhousie University, a Ph.D. in immunology at Stanford University, and a postdoctoral fellowship in neurobiology at Caltech. From 1999 to 2011, Dr. Morrison was Director of the Center for Stem Cell Biology at the University of Michigan and in 2011 he founded Children’s Research Institute at UT Southwestern. Dr. Morrison was a Searle Scholar (2000-2003), received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (2003), and a MERIT Award from the National Institute on Aging (2009). He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (2018) and the National Academy of Sciences (2020). Dr. Morrison served as the President of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (2015–2016) and has been active in public policy issues related to stem cell research, receiving the ISSCR Public Service Award in 2022.
James A. Wells, Ph.D.
Wells’ group pioneered the engineering of proteins, antibodies, and small molecules that target catalytic, allosteric, and protein-protein interaction sites; and technologies including protein phage display, alanine-scanning, engineered proteases for improved hydrolysis, bioconjugations, N-terminomics, disulfide “tethering” (a novel site-directed fragment based approach for drug discovery), and more recently an industrialized recombinant antibody production pipeline for the proteome. These lead to important new insights into protease mechanisms, growth factor signaling, hot-spots in protein-protein interfaces, role of caspases in biology, and more recently determining how cell surfaces change in health and disease. His team was integral to several protein products including Somavert for acromegaly, Avastin for cancer, Lifitegrast for dry eye disease, and engineered proteases sold by Pfizer, Genentech, Shire and Genencor, respectively. He is an elected member of the US National Academy of Science, American Association of Arts and Science, and the National Academy of Inventors.