Startups, Venture

Romesh Subramanian births a new biotech with $50M and a plan to steer toward the clinic with drugs for rare muscle diseases

The Atlas Venture crew has never liked being splashy with money when it comes to startups. They like to get a good, lean team together with some seed money, find an experienced helmsman on the bench, gather a string of experts to lend advice and offer enough cash in the A round — usually with syndicate partners — to see if they’re really onto something with their lead drug. 

Maybe, the Atlas team could even score a preclinical deal, like the one they did with Delinia. Because they are always on the lookout for a great X factor return for an investment. The higher the better. 10X will get a rousing cheer going in this group. A fast 10X-plus works even better. And if it looks like too long a path to pivotal data, they’ve been known to bow out as well.

So along those lines, it’s not too surprising to see the startup model Romesh Subramanian is rolling into the biotech lane today.

Jason Rhodes

Atlas, Forbion and MPM got together to provide the $50 million launch round, which will allow the CEO to build up the crew as they build on the preclinical work they’ve been at for the past year or so — courtesy of Atlas Venture’s incubation funds.

Atlas’ Jason Rhodes will be playing a key role as executive chairman, helping steer a company he co-founded.

The biotech is called Dyne Therapeutics and they’ve been working on using oligonucleotides to degrade RNA responsible for disease — with a special focus on muscle ailments.

Dyne has been developing its own in-house conjugate technology so they can take this approach and carefully target it to muscles. Zero in close enough and you can amp up your dosage and avoid off-target issues. 

Their first disease is myotonic dystrophy type 1 — or DM1 — a rare, inherited ailment that causes muscle weakness. The plan is to build a pipeline of therapies that can kick down gene expression for rare, monogenic neuromuscular diseases, starting with skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle. And they want to stay focused on breakthrough therapies.

“Fifty million takes us to the clinic,” says Subramanian. He’s not sharing any timelines with me — not unusual in a startup’s early days. But with these backers, clear, trackable progress is baked into everything they do.

This is all familiar territory for Subramanian, a well-known figure in biotech, who did a stint as a senior scientist at Pfizer with Art Krieg before moving on to co-found RaNA and then set up translational research groups for rare diseases at Alexion — up until Ludwig Hantson’s big purge in the fall of 2017.

Within months, he was building the new company at Atlas. These days, you see one door close, you potentially get to have your pick of doors. 

Left to right: Sudhir Agrawal, Charles Thornton, Louis Kunkel, Nancy Andrews.

Here’s their impressive list of scientific advisers helping Dyne stay on track:

— Nancy Andrews, former dean of the School of Medicine at Duke University and Novartis board member.

— Louis Kunkel, member of the Division of Genetics and Genomics at Boston Children’s Hospital and professor of pediatrics and genetics at Harvard Medical School.

— Charles Thornton, Saunders Distinguished Professor of Neuromuscular Research at the University of Rochester.

— Sudhir Agrawal, visiting professor in the Department of Medicine at The University of Massachusetts Medical School and founder of Idera Pharmaceuticals.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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