Casma names Third Rock venture partner as COO

Frank Gentile (Third Rock Ventures)

Casma Therapeutics has named Third Rock Ventures’ Frank Gentile as its chief operating officer. The appointment means Gentile will commit full time to the autophagy startup he helped get off the ground.

Third Rock unveiled Casma as its latest startup in May and sent it out into the world with $58.5 million in series A funds. At that time, Gentile was on board as interim COO, giving him an important role in Casma’s early efforts to harness the body’s waste processing system to stop and reverse rare genetic disorders. 

Having spent the past eight months working at Casma on an interim, part-time basis, Gentile has now committed to the role full time. Casma now has a permanent COO and CEO—ex-Constellation CEO Keith Dionne—and an interim chief scientific officer and chief business officer.

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Gentile, like Dionne, came to Casma via Third Rock, where he has spent the past four years as an entrepreneur in residence and, more recently, as a venture partner. Third Rock hired Gentile away from Tekla Capital Management in 2015, ending his 12-year spell at the investment adviser.

That lengthy spell at Tekla, plus the stint at Third Rock, means it is some time since Gentile worked full time at a biotech. Gentile worked as a vice president at Millennium Pharmaceuticals around the turn of the century before leaving to join Tekla in 2002. Prior to Millennium, Gentile worked at Curis at a time when it was moving allogeneic cardiac cell therapy Vascugel into human testing.

At Casma, Gentile will apply this experience to the development of drugs designed to enhance autophagy, the process by which the body breaks down and recycles cellular components. Casma thinks drugs that provide a boost to the process can treat lysosomal storage disorders and other diseases. 

Casma unveiled the appointment of Gentile alongside news that it has hired Caren Block as its VP of people and culture. Block joins Casma from GNS Healthcare.