Remix Therapeutics is cashing in on biotech investors’ continued interest in RNA. The Cambridge startup has raised 70 million in series B financing to develop drugs that “reprogram RNA processing” to treat cancer and nervous system diseases that affect the brain and spinal cord.
Most established drug companies focus on designing therapies aimed at proteins involved in a disease, but an increasing number of small biotech firms are setting their sights on RNA. Every protein in our bodies is made from a set of RNA instructions, and removing those instructions could help prevent disease-causing proteins from being made. Conversely, amplifying those instructions could boost the production of beneficial proteins. But finding drugs that target a single set of instructions is tricky.
“Drugging RNA has been viewed as an exciting area for a long time, but notoriously difficult,” said Peter Smith, cofounder and chief executive of Remix. “If we can crack this nut we are going to be able to build some really important medicines.”
While some biotech firms, such as Moderna, are using RNA itself as a drug or vaccine, other companies, such as Arrakis Therapeutics in Waltham, are designing drugs that directly target RNA linked to cancer or other diseases. Remix is taking a slightly different approach by making drugs that “manipulate the way RNA is processed,” Smith said.
Through so-called RNA-protein complexes that regulate RNA, Remix hopes to make drugs that remove bad RNA, boost the expression of good RNA, and potentially even overwrite genetic mutations. The details of the company’s drug screening technology are under wraps, and the firm isn’t disclosing specific diseases that it is working on.
Remix was seeded at the Cambridge life science venture capital firm Atlas Venture — where Smith was an entrepreneur in residence — in late 2019. The startup emerged from stealth mode in December 2020 with $81 million in financing led by Foresite Capital, a health care and life science investment firm based in San Francisco.
Atlas, Foresite, and other early investors in Remix joined Surveyor Capital in the firm’s new financing, which Smith said would sustain the company into 2024 and help move its lead programs into clinical testing.
Remix also has a research collaboration with Johnson & Johnson focused on cancer and immune diseases. That deal, announced in February, earned the startup $45 million in upfront cash. Remix could earn more than $1 billion in additional payments from J&J, depending on the success of those programs.
The startup has more than 40 employees split across a couple of locations in Kendall Square, Smith said. In November, Remix will move into a new facility at 100 Forge in Watertown.