Casma Therapeutics nabs $50M series B to find treatments using the cell's garbage disposal

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Casma Therapeutics is initially working on muscular dystrophy. (Manuel-F-O/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Fierce 15 winner Casma Therapeutics has bagged $50 million as it looks to kick on with its early work in muscular dystrophy.

After a couple of years’ incubation at Third Rock Ventures, Casma launched back in May 2018 with $58.5 million to create treatments aimed at autophagy, or the cell’s garbage disposal.

Initially, it stayed mum on specific targets, but now it’s nabbed a $50 million series B to fund work on its TRPML1 agonist program in development for muscular dystrophy, as well as continue to develop the company’s Autophagy Degrader Platform.

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TRPML1 regulates the repair of the plasma membrane of muscle cells following damage, addressing the core pathology in multiple forms of muscular dystrophy, and is a new approach for the degradation of multiple disease-causing targets.

The financing was led by The Column Group and added new investors Eventide Asset Management LLC and Schroder Adveq as well as other undisclosed institutional investors. Existing investor Third Rock also chipped in.

The Nobel Prize was granted in 2016 for autophagy, but, as of yet, no drugs have launched in the space. It is a major pathway, perhaps the major pathway, by which cells clear out all the byproducts of their functions, whether they are proteins, aggregated proteins, dysfunctional mitochondria or invading pathogens like bacteria.

The buildup of these unwanted materials leads to various ailments, including rare genetic diseases such as lysosomal storage disorders and liver and muscle diseases as well as inflammatory and neurodegenerative conditions.

Blocking autophagy and overloading the cell with waste is one way to cause cell death, which can be useful in cancer treatment. But under certain conditions, boosting autophagy can promote cell death, too. Casma believes dialing up autophagy will be more broadly useful than inhibiting it.

But the challenge has always been that no one really knows how to induce autophagy. This is where Casma comes in, as it has figured out how to reconstruct the protein complexes that drive the autophagy pathway.

“We are very excited to welcome TCG, Eventide Asset Management, LLC and Schroder Adveq as investors in Casma. We believe our investors’ strong focus on science, combined with their established position in the life sciences ecosystem, will aid us in continuing to forge ahead as pioneers in this novel area of biology,” said Keith Dionne, Ph.D., CEO of Casma.

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