Biotech Startup Rome Therapeutics Raises $77 Million in Funding
(Bloomberg) -- Rome Therapeutics Inc., a biotech company focusing on portions of DNA that have been largely overlooked by researchers, raised $77 million in a financing round.
The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company is exploring DNA sequences that repeat themselves hundreds or thousands of times throughout the human body. Unlike most genes, which have only two copies, repetitive sequences are found in vast stretches of the human genome. Collectively, Rome dubs them the “repeatome.”
The sequences have been historically regarded as “junk DNA,” with scientists dismissing them as useless because they don’t produce proteins like other genes. Rome, however, thinks they play an important role in diseases like cancer and autoimmune conditions.
Rome’s approach has attracted notable names. New investors include Section 32, which led the B series round, as well as Sanofi Ventures, Casdin Capital and Andreessen Horowitz. Existing investors ARCH Ventures, GV and Mass General Brigham Ventures also participated. The company will use the proceeds to move its drug candidates closer to being studied in humans. It also plans to expand its pipeline and build out its data-science platform, Chief Executive Officer Rosana Kapeller said.
The “different expertises” of the investor group will help Rome Therapeutics “to really build that unique company,” she said.
The repeats are the result of ancient viruses that have embedded into DNA. Rome Therapeutics has spent the past three years trying to understand them and the role they play in diseases. The sequences sit quietly until there’s stress on a cell, which causes them to activate and instruct the immune system to attack. Sometimes the strategy works and the body will fight off an illness -- but sometimes the reaction only makes the problem worse.
Rome Therapeutics says it can pinpoint when those repeats are active and use that insight to help treat diseases. Developing treatments will require a combination of biologists, chemists and data scientists, Kapeller said.
Section 32 was attracted to Rome Therapeutics after the biotech company hired Menachem Fromer, formerly with Google’s Verily Life Sciences, to head up data science, according to Steve Kafka, a managing partner at the venture firm. Additionally, early data show that medicine clearly affects the repeats, he said, and that convinced him there’s high potential in the area.
Rome Therapeutics will reveal the first disease it plans to target and share preclinical data later this fall, Kapeller said.
The company declined to disclose its valuation or its plans for future financing, such as an initial public offering. Rome Therapeutics was valued at $70 million when it raised its Series A funding in April 2020, according to Pitchbook.
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