Drug Development, Startups, Venture

Jnana launches with $50M to spotlight an unexplored protein territory

Boston startup Jnana Therapeutics is launching with a $50 million Series A round to develop a drug discovery platform it hopes will push the envelope of protein science.

The company is looking to discover oncology targets (among other disease areas) by investigating how proteins known as SLC transporters function across cells and in tissues.

Amir Nashat

“These proteins are amongst the oldest in biology, and afford avenues to address virtually all major diseases,” said the company’s CEO Amir Nashat in a statement. “After 50 years of drug development, only a handful of SLCs have been harnessed to treat disease, leaving over 400 members unstudied.”

In the past, these proteins have been studied one by one. Jnana’s edge is that its tech can sift through the whole body of SLC transporters and develop small-molecule drugs against them.

“Our proprietary chemistry and biology platform allows us to systematically advance medicines based on the biology of these ancient information gathering systems,” said Nashat, who is also managing partner at Polaris Partners, one of Jnana’s backers.

Seed funders Polaris Partners and Avalon Ventures were joined in the Series A syndicate by Versant Ventures, AbbVie Ventures, and Pfizer R&D Innovate.

Jnana was co-founded by Stuart Schreiber, the co-founder of Vertex Pharmaceuticals and Ariad Pharmaceuticals (which Takeda acquired earlier this year in a $5.2 billion deal). Other founders include Ramnik Xavier (Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School), Joanne Kotz (Jnana’s president and former director of the Broad Institute), and Joel Barrish (Jnana’s CSO and the former vice president and head of discovery chemistry for Bristol-Myers Squibb).


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