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A Decade of Arvinas

Breaking Barriers in Biotech: The Arvinas Founding Story

Craig Crews, Ph.D, Founder

In some ways, the idea behind Arvinas began with a failed venture capital (VC) pitch attempt.

It was 20 years ago, and Arvinas founder, Craig Crews, was trying to start his first company. This was during a challenging time in biotech—right after the post-genomic bubble had burst—and investors were not all that interested in unproven platform technologies.

“A kind VC pulled us aside after a failed pitch and said, ‘You know, this concept of PROTAC®, we’re just not interested in it,’” says Craig. The VC then asked, “Do you have something that’s closer to the clinic, like a small molecule that we can see a clear line of sight toward a clinical trial and hopefully approval?”

Craig would spend the next 10 years in his lab, using small molecules to produce a new therapeutic modality. The breakthrough finally came when his lab was able to replace the peptide recruiting element that engages the E3 ligase ligands with small molecules. With that in hand, the venture community was much more interested.

But even so, when Arvinas first started, the company faced skepticism from the biotech community. “We were freed in academia from thinking about the realities of drug development, and that allowed for wonderful creativity,” Craig says. “But it also created barriers to adoption by the industry itself because we were looked at, first of all, like amateurs, and secondly, like we were not grounded in reality.”

By successfully bridging the gap between the academic chemical biology community and the professional drug development industry, Arvinas has led the way in researching an entirely new class of medicines while fostering partnerships with leading biopharmaceutical companies.

Moving forward, Craig is excited for the team to continue its rich history in innovation by changing the way drug development is done. But ultimately, he is most looking forward to seeing the difference our drug discoveries can make in real patients’ lives.

“It lays bare the real reason why we’re doing this,” he says of seeing the impact on patients. “And that is to help people.”


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