Escient launches to tackle itching and anaphylactoid drug targets

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Escient Pharmaceuticals launched today with $40 million in series A funding to develop small-molecule inhibitors of an unusual class of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) implicated in chronic itching conditions.

Nearly 500 U.S. FDA-approved drugs target more than 100 different GPCRs that control physiological processes as varied as appetite, blood pressure, heart rate, immune responses, mood, and vision. Still, hundreds more GPCRs are waiting to be tapped as potential drug targets. One overlooked family of GPCRs, known as Mas-related G protein-coupled receptors (Mrgprs), is what San Diego-based Escient has its eyes set on.