Tango Therapeutics Officially Debuts With $55 Million and a Crew of Superstar Scientific Advisers

Tango Therapeutics Officially Debuts With $55 Million and a Crew of Superstar Scientific Advisers March 30, 2017
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Cambridge, Mass.-based Tango Therapeutics launched with a $55 million Series A investment from Third Rock Ventures today.

The company will focus on developing cancer therapeutics using DNA sequencing, CRISPR-based targeting, and synthetic lethality. Synthetic lethality is a concept where two dependent genes can stay harmless as long as only one of them has a mutation. That single mutation makes the gene inactive. But if both genes become mutated, and both are inactive, they become lethal to the cell. As Frank Vinluan, writing for Xconomy says, “Tango aims to find genes that, in the presence of another mutated gene, will trigger a cancer cell’s death. A Tango drug would target the gene corresponding to the mutated one in order to spark the lethal combination.”

Overall, there are three areas the company plans to tackle: loss of tumor suppressor gene function, multiple oncogenic drivers, and immune evasion.

Barbara Weber will act as the interim chief executive officer. Cary Pfeffer will be interim chief business officer. Daniella Beckman will be chief financial officer, and Alan Huang will be senior vice president, Head of Biology. John Maxwell will be vice president, Head of Chemistry, and Janid Ali will act as vice president, Head of Biochemistry.

Weber was formerly a researcher with the University of Pennsylvania and Novartis . John Carroll, writing for Endpoints News said that Weber “is building a platform technology layered to study tumor suppressor gene functions, the drug targets that can be used to attack various cancers and the process of immune evasion cancer cells use to evade destruction. Weber explains that this approach has been made possible by a new use for CRISPR in drug discovery. Weber brought the idea to Third Rock, which she joined in 2015. And now she’ll get a chance to make it a reality as interim CEO.”

“It’s a tool that is incredibly versatile and powerful,” Weber told Carroll. “It can be used to interrogate tens of thousands of genes at a time and get a very specific answer with a high level of accuracy.”

The nascent company will also have a rock star team of scientific advisers, including Jose Baselga, physician-in-chief at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Levi Garray, senior vice president of Global Oncology at Eli Lilly ; William Kaelin, professor in the Department of Medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School and a Howard Hughes Medical Institutes Investigator; Timothy Lu, associate professor of Biological Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT; and Antoni Ribas, professor of Medicine, Surgery, and Molecular and Medical Pharmacology at UCLA.

“Loss of tumor suppressor genes is a hallmark of cancer, but the genes, themselves, are not tractable targets for drug discovery,” Weber said in a statement. “The availability of comprehensive DNA sequencing, coupled with CRISPR-enabled target discovery, provides us with new paths to identify novel drug targets and combinations that take advantage of vulnerabilities created by loss of tumor suppressor gene function—something we have been unable to do effectively in the past. With the sophisticated genomics tools now available, the time is right for Tango to take on this challenge and focus on patients without effective treatment options.”

The company is in the very early stages, with clinical trials on the far horizon. The Series A funding will allow the company to build out its drug target and drug discovery software engines, as well as validate the targets it finds. At that point, the company, according to Pfeffer, should be able to raise more money or find a partner.

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