Dewpoint Therapeutics is on a mission to develop a drug platform that targets biomolecular condensates, an understudied type of organelle found inside cells, and potentially target any and all diseases.
CEO: Amir Nashat, Sc.D.
Based: Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Dresden, Germany
Clinical focus: Dewpoint is working on condensates, a new area of research that is helping to explain aspects of cell biology that have been mysterious to researchers. If you look back into your dog-eared biology textbooks, they'll almost certainly tell you the principle of the cell is the membrane. But now, more importance is being given to biomolecular condensates—transient, liquidlike droplets made up of proteins and RNA—and Dewpoint is using this model to find new ways of discovering drugs.
The scoop: “We all have our mental models of how cells function, and I think back to my biology textbooks,” Chief Scientific Officer Mark Murcko, Ph.D., said. “They give us this picture that there's a load of proteins just floating around in the cytoplasm and the nucleus, and then they randomly encounter each other once in a while, then they separate and go off and do other things.
“It’s a model about how things pop together and happen. It turns out, however, that nobody ever really liked that model. And if you really scratch the surface, everybody has known from the start that it doesn’t explain, in fact can’t explain, how cells function.”
What researchers have started to discover are instead membraneless organelles, created via so-called liquid–liquid phase separation, that apparently can in some cases speed up reactions between their component proteins and in others, keep reactants away from one another.
What makes Dewpoint fierce: Why are condensates important for drug discovery? Because mutations that disturb the assembly and disassembly of these structures appear to affect the course of neurodegenerative diseases, cancer and more. Understanding and working with these organelles could lead to drugging the undruggable, and, potentially, treating a whole host of diseases.
“Now we can figure out how things really function, and take advantage of these membraneless organelles,” Murcko says. “What we have is a new understanding of the fundamental aspect of how cells function. So we have made a conscious decision that, rather than narrowly picking a single disease area, there are several, namely cancer and neuro diseases, that make total sense as a major direction. But we’re seeing so many opportunities across all disease areas.
“And I think we’re doing something different when it comes to how we’re building the company," he went on to say. "Because this is such a brand-new area—and because it crosses all disease areas—we’ve done something that I’ve certainly never seen, in biotech at least, which is building the most involved and diverse, top-notch group of advisers.”
Usually such advisers amount to little in the grand scheme of things; they often work a few days a year for a pay packet but don't bring much to the table. But at Dewpoint these advisers, who include biotech backer Bob Langer (you can see them all here), are being “taken to a whole new level,” Murcko explains.
“What we’re saying is that, this is such a first-inning opportunity, that in addition to building a top exec and research team internally, we want to be totally open to the fact the field is exploding," he says. "And so we’re building very deep relationships with a huge cross-section of the leaders in this field.”
You “don’t just want a bunch of figureheads” as advisers, he says. Instead, Dewpoint aims to have them deeply involved in the company’s work, and so they're in regular contact with internal executives about how to move the science forward.
There’s also a cross-Atlantic site in Dresden, Germany—not a secondary site, Murcko is quick to say, but one just as important as its Cambridge, Massachusetts, site. It's home to a whole team of researchers, including Tony Hyman, Ph.D., director and group leader at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, whose research has defined the emergent area of phase separation and biomolecular condensates.
This cross-continent and cross-working approach is key to the biotech. It wants to get out of the stale air that can amass in Kendall Square.
“I worry all the time about whether Cambridge is getting too big for its britches,” Murcko says. “Because as successful as we’ve been as a group in life science, let’s be honest: Discovery is still frightfully difficult. We mostly fail miserably at it, so we can all beat our chests and talk about how smart we are, but that’s delusional.
“Drug discovery is very, very difficult. So, in a case like Dewpoint, where you really have the opportunity to change the game—because condensates are totally game-changing—then you have to figure out how to tap into that to make new medicines, which is why we’re doing things differently.”
Investors: $60 million series A led by Polaris Partners, with Samsara BioCapital, 6 Dimensions Capital, EcoR1 Capital and Leaps by Bayer