Third Rock, J&J spinout Rapport arrives with $100M and ambition to transform precision neuroscience

Some of Third Rock Ventures’ startups may have struggled in recent months, but the VC firm is nothing if not persistent. The latest biotech to roll off the Third Rock conveyor belt is Rapport Therapeutics, which is launching with $100 million in funds and a clinical-stage neuroscience asset born in Johnson & Johnson’s labs.

The company was set up by Third Rock and J&J’s investment arm JJDC and is based on the work of molecular neuroscientist David Bredt, M.D., Ph.D. Now chief scientific officer at Rapport, Bredt previously headed up neuroscience research at Eli Lilly and then at J&J.

It was Bredt who discovered receptor-associated proteins (RAPs) and their role in modulating receptor expression. Rapport’s platform harnesses genomics, protein science and brain imaging technologies to identify RAPs for use in precision neuromedicines.

Unlike current treatments for neurological disorders, which indiscriminately act on targets expressed across the nervous system, Rapport’s sales pitch is that it can hone in on receptors in the specific neuroanatomical regions causing the conditions. So far, the biotech has one candidate in the clinic in the form of a phase 1 trial for its seizure disorder program.

Heading up the company is CEO Abraham Ceesay, a veteran of neurological biotechs including stints in the top seat at both Cerevel Therapeutics and Tiburio Therapeutics.

Third Rock saw one of its ventures, Goldfinch, recently sink amid a stormy biotech market, so the additional backing of a Big Pharma like J&J gives Rapport some additional ballast. Arch Venture Partners joined its VC peer and the pharma giant for the $100 million series A funding round.

It's already shaping up to be a big year for J&J’s own neuroscience ambitions, with some highly anticipated readouts for its “pipeline in a product” nipocalimab, which is being touted as a new option to treat the neurological disease myasthenia gravis as well as various immunologic conditions. The Big Pharma also has its own Alzheimer’s disease treatment in the works.