Accent Therapeutics nabs $63M for RNA cancer push

Two years ago, Accent Therapeutics got off a $40 million series A to target RNA-modifying proteins in cancer; now, in the middle of a pandemic, it’s still managed to bring in a respectable $63 million second funding round.

The startup officially launched back in May 2018 with that $40 million in the bank to develop cancer treatments based on epitranscriptomics, or the science around RNA structure, stability, function and translation in cell biology.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech is taking aim at RNA-modifying proteins (RMPs), which have been linked to certain cancers in recent studies. RNA is commonly referred to as the "blueprint" for DNA. And if DNA is the house in this analogy,  RMPs are homeowners' choices that modify the structure of the house.

Now, two years down the line, it’s got another $63 million in the bag to develop its platform and, notably, its two lead programs METTL3 and ADAR1, as well as to “continue to expand its pipeline in the rich target space of RNA modification.”

The first of its early leading candidates, METTL3, is an RNA methyltransferase implicated in acute myeloid leukemia as well as specific solid tumors and immuno-oncology.

ADAR1, meanwhile, is an RNA editor with “compelling validation” for solid tumors with elevated intrinsic type I interferon-stimulated gene signaling, according to the biotech, that has also been “suggested” to play a key role in immuno-oncology.

“Opportunities to have such a broad impact in novel areas of biology are becoming increasingly rare,” said Oleg Nodelman, founder and managing director of EcoR1 Capital, which led the raise. “The team at Accent is well-positioned to lead this area of drug development and achieve the rich therapeutic potential of these exciting programs.”

“We are thrilled to have the support of this remarkable group of investors that share our vision for developing novel therapies for patients in need,” added Shakti Narayan, CEO of Accent. “With the progress we have made to-date and expect to make in the coming months, the next phase of Accent’s growth is set to be truly transformational.”