At Erasca, our name is our mission: to erase cancer. It begins with our passion and compassion for patients with cancer and their loved ones who motivate us to do our best work. It extends to our social mission that calls us to do more with the resources we’ve been blessed with to be a beacon of hope.
We are forging our own path while also standing on the shoulders of giants, drawing best practices from others within our industry and even beyond. We craft novel therapies for patients with cancer. We wield cutting-edge development strategies forged by precision oncology. We recruit top talent and foster an inclusive, innovative culture to drive talent density and engagement. We set bold, dynamic goals.
We also draw inspiration from nature itself. In 1960, a mathematician-turned-meteorologist at MIT named Edward Lorenz built a computer model to predict the weather. As is often the case with “eureka” moments in science, Lorenz was surprised to find two weather patterns originating from nearly the exact same starting point later diverged into seemingly random chaos. He concluded that infinitesimally small differences in initial conditions could lead to vastly variable outcomes – a phenomenon he referred to as “sensitive dependence on initial conditions” that planted the seed for a new science.1
The earliest seed for our company was planted on February 6, 2018. During my downtime that evening while on a business trip in London, I read about a novel strategy to drug the active state of RAS, the most frequently mutated oncogene in human cancer, based on the work of Dr. Kevan Shokat, a world-renowned biochemist who in 2013 had discovered an innovative approach to drug the inactive state of RAS. I recognized the potentially far-reaching implications of this new approach and couldn’t wait to turn this idea into reality through a new start-up. The name “Erasca” came to mind immediately: Its mission would be to Eradicate RAS-driven CAncer and to ERASe CAncer more broadly. Erasca’s name is a portmanteau that incorporates these dual meanings. That night, I registered the erasca.com URL from my hotel room.
The day after I left Roche/Genentech, Kevan and I co-founded Erasca on July 2, 2018 around this disruptive idea to target the active state of RAS. We commenced operations in October 2018, launching with a dedicated team of a dozen alumni from Ignyta, Genentech, and Wellspring. Each “Erascal,” as we call ourselves, brought a distinct spike of expertise to the company – and this has been the case with every new Erascal who has joined us since.
Lorenz’s phenomenon is also known as the “butterfly effect,” a more familiar concept which captures the idea that a small change can have much larger downstream consequences – like how the metaphorical flutter of a butterfly’s wings can become amplified into a raging storm on the other side of the world. With our initial conditions set, our hope is that a single idea – like the one that emerged that evening in London – can initiate a cascade of advances that can become amplified into saving millions of people from cancer in the future.
Erasca embarked on a journey to create new product candidates based on differentiated approaches to shut down RAS-driven cancers. We realized early on that RAS is a wily target that may evade direct inhibition via multiple mechanisms – both in-pathway and beyond. To combat this, we built a pipeline of our own research programs complemented by a parallel corporate development strategy to in-license or acquire assets with the goal of comprehensively shutting down the RAS/MAPK pathway with single agents and rational combinations.
Our efforts are rooted in a deep understanding of the biology of the RAS/MAPK pathway and are focused on finding the right molecules in a modality-agnostic manner rather than relying on a single, platform-specific approach. Since commencing operations, we have advanced six internal discovery programs and entered into five acquisition and licensing agreements between February 2020 and March 2021 to assemble our current modality-agnostic pipeline of 11 distinct programs singularly focused on silencing this signaling cascade. Our broad pipeline allows us to target not just individual signaling nodes in the RAS/MAPK pathway, but multiple nodes and cooperative mechanisms in concert.
I never imagined that this pipeline could have emerged from a single idea seeded on February 6, 2018. But with the thoughtful addition of each new Erascal, each new advisor, each new collaborator, and each new program initiated or licensed that collectively made the whole much greater than the sum of its parts – along with a robust ecosystem of fellow sojourners publishing each new paper or reporting promising new data – a novel pattern was beginning to form. One can only wonder at the kinds of downstream effects a pipeline of this breadth could have on the lives of patients suffering from cancer.
Embedded in his weather model, where others saw only chaos, Lorenz saw order masquerading as randomness. By using math to describe the non-linear phenomena he observed in nature, he was able to create pictures from the data. The pictures that emerged were beautiful patterns – each a unique, wondrous trajectory in its own right, based on changing the inputs of the initial conditions. Each picture, called a “Lorenz attractor,” displayed infinite complexity. It always stayed within certain invisible boundaries, but never repeated itself. The pattern that forms is a wondrous, almost magical shape – like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis after a period of formation – or like a new company emerging with a clear mission to make a difference in the treatment of cancer.
Our vision is to one day erase cancer2 in at least 100,000 patients annually as a leading global oncology company. We aim to fulfill this by targeting RAS, the most frequently mutated oncogene in human cancer, and the MAPK pathway, one of the most frequently altered signaling pathways in cancer. Approximately 5.5 million patients worldwide per year are diagnosed with RAS/MAPK pathway alterations that drive the growth and proliferation of their cancer. By shutting down the RAS/MAPK pathway with combinations of medicines within Erasca’s pipeline as well as with partners’ agents, we hope to markedly improve patients’ lives and move closer to achieving Erasca’s bold mission and vision.
The path to achieving our mission to erase cancer is anything but linear. The journey will be long, and it won’t be easy. Despite the challenges that lie ahead, we have a sense of urgency because patients with cancer are waiting. Since our inception, we have expanded our pipeline within a rapid timeframe and are currently in a heady growth phase to continue advancing this pipeline. Conducting an IPO of consequence to raise the capital we need to advance our mission on behalf of patients is a watershed event in the life of our company. Reaching this milestone is a testament to the tremendous efforts of many who have supported Erasca, and we owe a debt of gratitude to patients with cancer and their families, our employees, our board of directors, our scientific and R&D advisory boards, our academic and industry collaborators, and our shareholders.
Beyond our immediate mission, we know we can do more to make an even broader contribution to society. Accordingly, in May 2021, we established the Erasca Foundation, which will be funded by the donation of 1% of our capital stock prior to the closing of this offering. The foundation will support and fund cancer research, education, and other initiatives.
We hope that a bold new pattern will emerge from our commitment to patients and society, while keeping our promises to our stakeholders. The Lorenz attractor reveals fine structures hidden within disorderly streams of data. The result of its initial conditions is a system that never exactly repeats itself, travelling in a unique trajectory that never intersects itself. What we hope to create is a company that has never been seen before because there is no model to mimic for pioneers who seek to traverse uncharted paths.
It is Erasca. Uniquely beautiful and unprecedented. We hope you will join us on the wondrous journey ahead.