Pharma, Startups

RNA metabolism-focused Gotham Therapeutics launches with $54M Series A round

The company, focused on epitranscriptomics, launched with backing from Versant Ventures, Forbion, GSK’s venture capital arm, Celgene and others.

A company developing a class of RNA-modifying proteins to potentially treat cancers, autoimmune disorders and neurodegenerative diseases has launched with a pool of cash from several investors.

New York-based Gotham Therapeutics launched Wednesday with a $54 million Series A financing round, led by San Francisco-based Versant Ventures, European venture capital firm Forbion and S.R. One, the venture capital arm of GlaxoSmithKline. Other participants included drugmaker Celgene and Alexandria Venture Investments. In addition to being based in New York, it also has a subsidiary in Munich.

The company’s approach centers on the emerging field of epitranscriptomics, a field of study within RNA metabolism that has been the focus of Dr. Samie Jaffrey, a professor of pharmacology Weill Cornell Medicine and a member of the company’s scientific advisory board. The company, initially founded last year, says on its website that it is looking to develop a pipeline of therapies around that research.

“As we pursue several important targets, the information we glean will help us further validate and build our platform for increasingly broad applications,” CEO Lee Babiss said in a statement. “Our goal is to become the leader in drugging key proteins that modulate mRNA functionality, thereby impacting disease onset and progression.”

Another company focused on epitranscriptomics is Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Accent Therapeutics, which itself launched in May with a $40 million Series A funding round, from a consortium that included The Column Group, Atlas Venture and EcoR1 Capital. That round was closed on Sept. 18, 2017.

Epitranscriptomics are similar in some ways to epigenetics in terms of chemical processes and enzymes involved, differing from epigenetics in their focus on transcribing RNA into proteins rather than transcribing DNA into RNA. Accent CEO Robert Copeland had previously worked with Epizyme, also based in Cambridge, whose lead drug candidate, tazemetostat, uses the epigenetic target EZH2. Other epigenetic drugs include HDAC inhibitors like Novartis’ HDAC inhibitor for multiple myeloma, Farydak (panobinostat).

Photo: Bill Ingalls, via Getty Images