Cambridge startup launches HDAC platform with Series A

Cambridge, MA-based startup Acetylon Pharmaceuticals is taking the wraps off a $7.25 million Series A later today as it sets out to zero in on a lead program and demonstrate the effectiveness of a new class of HDAC therapies.

Rather than go the venture capital route, Acetylon is backed by a group of individual investors and the Kraft Group. The investors include Marc A. Cohen, chairman of the board at Acetylon, along with Bruce L. Downey, former CEO of Barr Pharmaceuticals and Elena Prokupets, former CEO of Lenel Systems International.

Walter Ogier, the former CEO of Eligix and Genetix Pharmaceuticals and a business founder of Acetylon, was named CEO. Ogier is currently working with a group of consultants and a CRO, but tells FierceBiotech that Acetylon can now staff up to about 10 employees over the next year as it moves toward an IND. They'll be engaged in development programs aimed at inhibiting the HDAC6 enzyme, with an initial focus on multiple myeloma and rheumatoid arthritis. Acetylon will build on the research work of a group of scientists that include Kenneth Anderson at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Stuart Schreiber at Harvard University.

"By making it specific to HDAC6, we think we can increase the dosing levels," says Ogier, "gaining greater efficacy than one can with a pan-HDAC inhibitor. But even more importantly, we can separate the benefit from the side effects." While still a fledgling operation, Ogier is optimistic that Acetylon's drug platform, and its prestigious research pedigree, can attract partners early in the development process.

"I think we'll start some discussions and see what happens," says Ogier. "It takes two to tango."

- see Acetylon's release