Cambridge Upstart Magenta Therapeutics Bags $48.5 Million and Will be Helmed by Former GlaxoSmithKline R&D Head

Published: Nov 17, 2016

Cambridge Upstart Magenta Therapeutics Bags $48.5 Million and Will be Helmed by Former GlaxoSmithKline R&D Head November 16, 2016
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Third Rock Ventures, Atlas Venture and a former GlaxoSmithKline executive have teamed up to launch Magenta Therapeutics, a new biotechnology company focused on developing therapies using stem cells and bone marrow transplants.

The company will be helmed by Jason Gardner, the former head of GSK’s Boston-area R&D department. Magenta launches with $48.5 million in Series A financing. The company plans to use the funding to “apply new stem cell science to reboot the immune and blood systems to treat patients with autoimmune diseases, genetic blood disorders and cancer.” The company said it wants to develop programs that will make stem cell transplants more effective for a broader range of diseases.

“Hematopoietic stem cells have the remarkable ability to develop into all cells in our blood and immune system, and have been used to transplant over one million patients in the past 50 years,” Gardner said in a statement. “Technical and scientific hurdles have relegated stem cell transplantation to a last resort for deadly diseases today, but new science is ready to be advanced to the clinic that could fundamentally open up this powerful medicine to patients suffering from earlier stage cancers, blood disorders and a large set of aggressive autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis and scleroderma.”

Over the past year, Gardner said Magenta has conducted “extensive diligence” on stem cell science and has recruited a strong team to launch the company. Magenta will be using a portfolio of breakthrough stem cell technologies developed at Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital.

Magenta launches with 20 employees and includes a list of prominent cofounders who are well versed in stem cell technology. David Scadden, professor of stem cell and regenerative biology at Harvard University, will serve as Magenta’s chief scientific adviser. Other executives include Michael Cooke, the chief scientific officer; Bastiano Sanna, Magenta’s chief operating officer and Christina Isacson, head of business development.

Magenta said the current standards for stem cell transplanting is based on decades-old science. The company said recent technological breakthroughs will allow the company to advance therapies by improving three aspects of the procedure—patient preparation using targeted antibodies, stem cell harvesting using new biologic agents and increasing stem cell numbers by targeting self-renewal pathways. Magenta said it will provide more details on its science and programs as the company moves forward.

“Stem cell transplants are curative. With new gene therapy and gene editing technologies and emerging clinical experience in autoimmune diseases, more patients with more diseases can be helped or cured. We think we can make stem cell transplants safer and more efficient and change the conversation with patients from risk-focused to benefit-focused. Our goal is to make transplantation a desired early option for people with many blood and immune disorders,” Scaden said in a statement.

Speaking to the Boston Business Journal, Gardner said the company is open to “collaborations with external groups and scientific groups," as they are not “looking to tackle all of it on our own.”

The board of directors will be led by Mike Bonney, former chief executive officer of Cubist . Alexis Borisy from Third Rock Ventures and Bruce Booth from Atlas Venture, will also serve in leadership roles on the board. Tom Daniel, the former president of research and early development at Celgene , will serve Magenta’s board as an independent director.

The Series A round was also supported by GV (formerly Google Ventures), Access Industries (Blavatnik Group) and Partners Innovation Fund.

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