Maze Therapeutics refuels with another $190M to prove its genetic modifiers approach holds up in the clinic
Jason Coloma remembers when Maze Therapeutics was nothing more than a bunch of PowerPoint slides. Several months after revealing exactly what his team of scientists have been up to, the chief executive is now gunning for the clinic with another $190 million in tow — and he says an IPO isn’t entirely out of the question.
“I mean, the good thing is with the financial flexibility that we now have, we’ve done a nice job,” Coloma said when asked about a public debut. “We’ll look at different options, but I think that would even include even staying private or looking at different business development transactions that might be helpful for us to kind of think of different ways to advance our pipeline.”
Maze launched back in 2019 with $191 million, support from some top-tier investors, and a mission to find so-called genetic modifiers, or genes that can change the severity of a monogenetic disease like sickle cell. The company’s lead candidate, MZE001, goes after Pompe disease, a rare muscle-wasting condition caused by the buildup of a sugar called glycogen in cells. Accumulation in certain organs and tissues (especially muscles) impairs their ability to function normally.
Patients with Pompe disease don’t have a functioning copy of the enzyme for disposing of glycogen. And while other drugmakers have largely set out to either infuse artificial copies of that enzyme or deliver a gene for a healthy one, Maze is targeting a gene called GYS1, which is responsible for making glycogen. The idea is that if you can inhibit GYS1, you can prevent glycogen from building up in the first place.
“We’ve targeted GYS1 because it has that ability to deplete glycogen, in particular in the skeletal muscles, which is important because that’s what’s really important for late-onset Pompe disease patients,” Coloma said.
That candidate’s expected to enter the clinic in the first half of this year. But one biopharma company, in particular, has its eyes on another of Maze’s preclinical candidates.
Maze’s second program is for APOL1 — a gene that has long been linked to a greatly increased risk of kidney disease — which puts the company in direct competition with Vertex. While the latter drugmaker currently has a molecule in Phase II for APOL1-linked kidney conditions, Coloma says Maze has a differentiated way of targeting the gene.
“For many years, people understood the genetics, but they didn’t really understand function or mechanism, right? There were about 10 different hypotheses on what was actually, what APOL1 was doing in the kidney,” he said.
Maze’s original plan was to have one IND per year — and according to Coloma, they’re right on track.
The company’s third program goes after a gene called ATXN2, in the hopes that knocking it down can help protect against the buildup of dangerous plaques. The approach was pioneered by co-founder Aaron Gitler, a professor of genetics at Stanford University.
There are nine precision medicine programs total in Maze’s pipeline, spanning metabolic, cardio-renal, neurologic and ophthalmic conditions.
This latest funding round was led by Matrix Capital Management, with participation from General Catalyst, a16z, Woodline Partners, Casdin Capital, City Hill Ventures, Foresite Capital, Driehaus Capital Management, Moore Strategic Ventures, Terra Magnum Capital Partners, NS Investments and several others.
“Going from basically an idea to the clinic in about three years is incredibly rewarding,” Coloma said. “Even though it’s been a crazy time, with Covid and everything around us, kind of soldiering forward and being able to build a company has been a tremendous experience.”