Twentyeight-Seven Therapeutics has launched with $65 million in venture capital to fund its treatments for a variety of cancers, which aim to modulate noncoding strands of microRNA to increase the levels of tumor-suppressing genes.
The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup’s founding investor, MPM Capital, co-led the series A round with the Novartis Venture Fund. Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Vertex Ventures HC, Longwood Fund and Astellas Venture Management also participated in the financing.
In addition, 28-7 brought on Shomir Ghosh, Ph.D., to be its chief scientific officer. Ghosh most recently served as CSO and founding scientist at IFM Therapeutics. Before that, he helped direct drug discovery at GlaxoSmithKline and later served as VP of drug discovery at GSK’s short-lived immunology spinout, Tempero Pharmaceuticals.
Founded in 2016, the company’s core technology comes from four Harvard Medical School professors in biological chemistry, molecular pharmacology and RNA medicine: Richard Gregory, Ph.D.; Frank Slack, Ph.D.; Piotr Sliz, Ph.D.; and George Daley, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the faculty of medicine—who have collaborated for years on the role of noncoding RNAs in disease and identifying related protein targets.
28-7’s lead small-molecule program hopes to increase the levels of the tumor suppressor microRNA Let-7, which regulates the translation of oncogenes within cells. Low levels of Let-7 have been correlated with stronger cancer aggressiveness.
The company doesn’t plan to directly target the RNA itself, but instead focus on RNA-modulating proteins to allow broader drug access to cells and tissues. Its main protein target is the inhibition of Lin28, which reduces levels of Let-7 and has been shown to promote cellular transformation and tumorigenesis.
“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 co-founder Daley, who serves as chairman of the company’s scientific advisory board. “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,” he said.