Ranok Therapeutics name (pronunciation) was inspired by Rano Kau an extinct volcano that forms the southwestern headland of Easter Island, one of the most remote inhabited places on Earth. Rano Kau’s eruption 2.5 million years ago led to the creation of the island. Its kilometer-wide crater now forms a natural amphitheater and contains a large reed-covered freshwater lake, which was once a major source of water for the island’s inhabitants. The rim of the crater is marred by Kari Kari, an area that has collapsed into the ocean, giving it the distinctive shape of the letter D when viewed from the air, as reflected in Ranok’s logo.
Easter Island is most famous for its nearly 1000 giant stone monuments, called moai. However, equally noteworthy in the history of pharmaceutical science, was the collection of a soil sample from the slope of Rano Kau by a Canadian research team in 1965. Ayerst Research Laboratories used this sample to identify a potent antifungal compound (1), the secreted product of the bacterium Streptomyces hygroscopicus. Rapamycin (Sirolimus), named after the native name for the island, Rapa Nui, was subsequently found to be a potent immunosuppressive that acts by chemically inducing dimerization the FKBP12 and mTOR proteins. In 1999, rapamycin was FDA approved for the prevention of organ transplant rejection and has profoundly benefited a family member of one of Ranok’s founders.
Interestingly, S. hygroscopicus was also the source of one of the first chemically induced protein degradation drugs, geldanamycin (2).
Ranok takes inspiration from this history as we pursue development of the next generation of drugs regulating protein homeostasis.