Startups, Venture

MPM, Novartis lead a big launch round for Kazumi Shiosaki’s latest biotech startup coming out of Harvard

Kazumi Shiosaki

Kazumi Shiosaki has now wrapped her third launch round for a biotech startup.

The MPM Capital executive partner who helped found and initially ran Epizyme and Mitobridge has been working with a small team to help validate the decade-long effort at George Daley’s Harvard lab to explore a particular pathway that appears to be an important player in cancer progression. And now they have stitched together an impressive $65 million round to take the next preclinical step toward making it a drug at 28-7 — as well as a showpiece for the platform work that’s being planned around it.

The ultimate target is Let-7, a miRNA which Daley and his team of scientific sleuths have been tracking as an intermediary to cancer aggressiveness. Their immediate target is Lin28, an RNA modulating protein which holds Let-7 back. Inhibit Lin28, they say, and you should let Let-7 do its cancer-fighting work more efficiently, making it a good addition to the oncology therapies that have been barreling along the pipeline.

George Daley

“George has been working on this pathway for a decade or so,” Shiosaki tells me. And she’s known Daley for longer than that, bringing him on board as a scientific adviser to Epizyme at launch. He and three close colleagues at Harvard, Richard Gregory, Frank Slack and Piotr Sliz, she adds, have this particular piece of the biologic waterfront covered.

The seed cash Shiosaki started to provide for the effort a couple of years back was largely devoted to developing the initial assay, which was “important to understand how we can find small molecules that can modulate this pathway.”

Now, the team of six at 28-7 — which is expected to grow quickly — are working on a “fleet of assays” to make sure that the molecules they’re discovering work precisely in the pathway they’ve marked out for themselves.

Shiosaki’s venture contacts are just as good as her scientific connections. And this time she has drawn together an impressive list of corporate and mainstream VCs to get the A round in the bank.

MPM Capital and Novartis Venture Fund co-led the financing. Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Vertex Ventures HC, Longwood Fund, and Astellas Venture Management all joined in.

Typically, when a biotech gets started, they’ll either focus on a particular asset or a platform. In this case, Shiosaki wants both. She wants a 28-7 drug candidate pointed to the clinic, and she wants the company to expand on their work regarding a plethora of potential targets in the vast sphere of noncoding RNA and the small molecules that can help correct RNA modulating proteins that play a clear role in different diseases.

But don’t expect her to share any timelines for getting to the clinic or potentially having something for regulators to consider.

“We are very, very early,” says the CEO, who’s been here before.  “It’s very difficult to make that projection.”


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