Startups, Venture

Versant-backed Gotham Therapeutics launches with $54M round and a new way to connect on mRNA

New York has added another biotech startup to its growing roster for the Big Apple hub.

Samie Jaffrey

The company is Gotham Therapeutics, which now has a $54 million launch round to back its work on a platform built on the insights gleaned by Samie Jaffrey, an investigator at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University who has specialized in post-transcriptional mRNA modifications.

 

Lee Babiss

The goal at Gotham is to create new drugs that can drug key proteins which modulate messenger RNA, with potentially a big impact on a slate of diseases. Cancer is an early focus at the early-stage company, along with autoimmune diseases as well as a run at neurosciences, but CEO Lee Babiss is reluctant to go into much detail about the specifics of their work.

That’s also something you can expect to see in a startup, where no one likes to get into the weeds on drug programs, or development timelines. But the science deserves a close look.

“While academic research and the pharmaceutical industry focused initially on modifications of DNA, a growing body of evidence indicates that mRNA modifications help determine to which degree genes are translated into proteins. RNA modifications and their associated protein complexes therefore represent an untapped frontier that could yield new therapeutic approaches,” says Jaffrey.

In Babiss the venture backers found someone with a deep level of experience in R&D. He is the former president of pharma research at Roche and was also the CSO at PPD, a big CRO.

That will help. Gotham is keeping the staffing levels low, with 6 full timers on the payroll. That might expand a little, but Babiss wants much of the heavy lifting to be done by contract workers, keeping the team at Gotham — which includes a sub in Munich — at a virtual level.

Seed investor Versant Ventures led the round, along with Forbion and GSK’s SR One. The syndicate also includes Celgene and Alexandria Venture Investments.


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