Rome, backed by Arch and GV, hires science leaders to hit targets in 'junk DNA'

Rome Therapeutics CEO Rosana Kapeller
Rome Therapeutics CEO Rosana Kapeller, M.D., Ph.D. (Rome Therapeutics)

Rome Therapeutics has appointed David Proia, Menachem Fromer and Sarah Knutson to its scientific leadership team. The trio join the Fierce 15 winner as it strives to develop cancer and autoimmune drugs against targets found in noncoding regions of the genome.

Massachusetts-based Rome is looking beyond the 2% of the genome that codes directly for proteins and seeking out targets in the repeating sequences that make up 60% of human DNA. The focus is underpinned by evidence that the repeating sequences play a role in how cancer cells evade the immune system as well as in infections, autoimmune disease and neurodegeneration.

Rome, which broke cover with $50 million from GV, Arch Venture Partners and Partners Innovation Fund last year, has now put in place more pieces of the leadership team it will need to deliver on its vision.

Proia has taken up the post of VP, oncology. Rome hired Proia away from C4 Therapeutics, where he spent more than five years and rose to the title of senior director of in vivo pharmacology. Working at C4, Proia helped get IKZF1/3 degrader CFT7455 into the clinic in patients with multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

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Rome disclosed the appointment of Proia alongside news of the arrival of Fromer at the company. Fromer spent the past five years at Verily Life Sciences, a sibling company of Rome-backer GV and the research organization of Google owner Alphabet Inc., where he led the data science group. Rome has tasked Fromer with leading the development and build out of its proprietary repeatomics data and analytics platform. 

Knutson is the third new hire disclosed by Rome. Before joining Rome, Knutson led the biology team at RNA startup Twentyeight-Seven Therapeutics. Knutson formerly worked at Nimbus Therapeutics, where Rome CEO Rosana Kapeller, M.D., Ph.D., held the title of chief scientific officer for eight years. Rome has hired Knutson as senior director, early discovery.

The new hires come almost a year after Rome added Merck Research Laboratories and Celgene veteran Dennis Zaller, Ph.D., as chief scientific officer.