28-7 Therapeutics Raises $65 Million to Advance Tumor Suppressor Research
Twentyeight-Seven Therapeutics (28-7), headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, announced it had completed a $65 million Series A financing. It was co-led by founding investor MPM Capital and Novartis Venture Fund. Joining them were Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Vertex Ventures, Longwood Fund, and Astellas Venture Management.
The company’s name, 28-7, derives from its lead drug program. The company focuses on developing small molecules that increase tumor suppressor microRNA (miRNA) levels for cancer therapy. Xconomy notes, “The small molecule drug targets an RNA-modulating protein called Lin28. This protein modulates an ncRNA called Let-7, which suppresses tumor activity. By blocking the activity of Lin28, the company says, it hopes its drug can raise Let-7 levels and, in turn, treat cancer. The company has not yet said which types of cancers it aims to treat.”
The company’s technology came out of the research of four Harvard Medical School researchers, George Daley, Richard Gregory, Frank Slack, and Piotr Sliz.
“Our founders have made important scientific contributions to the field of ncRNA biology, including the discovery of the Lin28/Let-7 pathway and its role in normal development, metabolism, and malignancy,” said Daley in a statement. “Overall, our studies have established Lin28/Let-7 as a major regulatory pathway in stem cells and cancer. We felt that the time was right to move these insights from the laboratory to pharmaceutical development, and we are very pleased by the progress the company achieved in the first two years of its existence. With this impressive round of funding and our continued support, 28-7 will unlock the therapeutic potential of our work.”
Most of the human genome does not have direct function in translating into proteins. This non-coding RNA (ncRNA) was dubbed “junk” for many years and was not believed to be of use in drug development. But in the last decade, research has identified the roles of “junk” molecules in regulating biological processes, including the initiation, growth and metastases of cancer. The company is developing drugs to target microRNAs, small ncRNAs that play a regulatory role in gene expression.
The company also announced that Shomir Ghosh is joining the company as its chief scientific officer. Ghosh was most recently chief scientific officer and a founding scientist at IFM Therapeutics.
“I am incredibly excited to join 28-7 and support the advancement of its lead program,” Ghosh said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Kazumi and our accomplished team and board as we discover new ways to fight cancer and grow our operations.”
Along with the financing, four investors will join the company’s board of director. They are Luke Evnin, managing director and co-founder, MPM Capital; Briggs Morrison, executive partner, MPM Capital and chief executive officer of Syndax Pharmaceuticals; Carolyn Ng, principal at Vertex Ventures; and Michal Silverberg, managing director, Novartis Venture Fund.
“This strong financing round was achieved thanks to the new biological understanding and impressive scientific data around non-coding RNA produced by our four scientific founders and the progress the 28-7 team has made since it was founded two years ago,” said Kazumi Shiosaki, founding president and chief executive officer of 28-7 in a statement. “Our experienced investors realize the promise in this new field of therapeutics and in the robust leads produced by our founders, who have made many of the seminal discoveries in this field, and by the exceptional scientists within the company.”