BioPharma, Startups

Maze Therapeutics launches with nearly $200M to explore genetic modifiers’ role in disease

Third Rock and ARCH led the launch of the company, which will look at ways to target genetic modifiers that can protect against certain diseases.

 

Several venture capital firms are have teamed up to launch a new company that aims to create drugs based on the differences in DNA that often protect people from diseases to which they are genetically predisposed.

Third Rock Ventures and ARCH Venture Partners said Thursday that they would lead the launch of Maze Therapeutics. The new company has obtained $191 million from the two venture capital firms and participating firms including Google’s GV, Foresite Capital, Casdin Capital, Alexandria Venture Investments and additional undisclosed investors. The company currently has a temporary address in Redwood City, California, according to its website.

The company’s scientific approach focuses on genetic modifiers, which are genes that affect the severity of diseases. According to the company, the amount of genetic data collected from people has led to a better understanding of how genetic mutations cause disease. But what remains unclear is why some people who are carriers of genes for diseases and would be expected to have them instead show mild symptoms or are not affected. Genetic modifiers often cause those differences, and Maze’s aim is to create medicines based on them.

Research in this area goes back more than a decade. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University’s Broad Institute published research on the benefits of genetic modifiers in sickle cell disease as early as 2008. Two of the company’s founders, Mark Daly and Sekar Kathiresan, came from the Broad Institute, according to Maze’s website. However, they are not named in the 2008 paper. Maze’s website does not specify which disease areas the company is pursuing.

“At Maze, we are focused on expanding our understanding of the natural disease protection provided by genetic modifiers through an integrated approach that combines studying natural human genetic variation across the globe and conducting large-scale experiments of gene perturbations,” said Charles Homcy, the company’s interim CEO and also a partner at Third Rock, in a statement.

According to the company’s website, it is combining large-scale human genetics with functional genomics, which are integrated with known biology using data science technology to understand how modifier genes confer protection and can be targeted with drug therapies. Upon finding a protective genetic modifier, the company intends to modulate it using drug discovery approaches, including the devleopment of small-molecule pharmaceuticals, biologics or gene therapies.

Photo: claudenakagawa, Getty Images