Gemini taps A-list VCs for $42M to fuel AMD R&D

Atlas Venture, Lightstone Ventures and OrbiMed have joined up to lead a $42.5 million investment in Gemini Therapeutics. The VCs put up the series A funds to equip Gemini to turn advances in our understanding of the genetics of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) into a drug pipeline.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Gemini has beavered away quietly on this task for the past 18 months using seed funding from the same VCs that co-led its series A. That work has taken Gemini to the point that it has both the validatory data to support a larger investment and a pipeline of prospects on which to spend the cash.

The startup differs from many biotechs in that its pipeline isn’t focused on any one drug modality. Rather, Gemini works across drug classes including monoclonal antibodies, recombinant proteins and gene therapies.

Gemini’s multimodal pipeline grew out of its approach to drug discovery.

“To build our pipeline, we focused on patients first, particularly patients with a high genetic risk profile,” Gemini CEO James McLaughlin said in a statement. “We assessed the functional implications of their underlying mutations. We then matched each molecular abnormality with an appropriate therapeutic candidate: A recombinant protein, a monoclonal antibody or a gene therapy.”

This activity has focused on AMD. In recent years, researchers have linked this relatively common cause of irreversible blindness to changes in genes, particularly those such as CFH that are involved in the complement system, part of the immune system. Gemini is seeking to build on these breakthroughs by translating knowledge of the genetic variants that correlate with increased risk of AMD into drug candidates.

In doing so, Gemini has reached across the Atlantic to access knowledge and technology from universities in Edinburgh—where scientific cofounders Paul Barlow, Ph.D., and Andy Herbert, Ph.D., work—and Newcastle. Gemini also works with the Netherlands’ Sanquin Blood Supply Foundation. And it has stacked its scientific advisory board with experts in AMD, target biology and gene therapy based around the world.

Gemini is tapping into these experts and resources to go after AMD and associated rare genetic diseases that are also mediated by the complement system. Armed with the series A, Gemini is now positioned to push forward these programs.