Third Rock launches new rare-disease biotech with $26M round

Third Rock Ventures is taking $26 million out of its latest fund to bankroll another upstart biotech. In joint announcements rolled out bright and early today the venture group took the wraps off of Lotus Tissue Repair and announced an in-licensing deal for protein replacement technology that will initially target an ultra-rare disease: dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa, or DEB, which causes skin blisters, morbidity and early mortality. Their recombinant collagen Type VII research also has broader applications for chronic wound healing and bone repair indications.

The Series A fits comfortably into Third Rock's plan to occasionally go it alone in starting up biotech companies with promising new technologies. In this case, Mark de Souza fills the role of founding CEO of the developer, which will be based in Cambridge, MA. De Souza was the business development chief at Dyax, which developed Kalbitor for hereditary angioedema, an orphan genetic disease.

There are two forms of the disease, explains the CEO, each of which occur in only about one in a million people. The recessive form, he adds, is particularly lethal.

For now, Lotus Tissue will remain a virtual company, says De Souza, with a few staffers working with consultants and the scientific founders on determining the right route of administration and the manufacturing that will be needed to support clinical trials. The scientific founders--Mei Chen and David Woodley, two USC investigators working in dermatology--also recently landed $3 million in NIH funding to back a Phase I/II study, which should also help illuminate the best clinical path for Tissue Repair.

- here's the release on the Series A