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Flagship commits $50 million in Foghorn Therapeutics

Flagship Pioneering, one of the biggest local venture firms involved in life sciences, said Wednesday that it has committed $50 million to a biotechnology startup that wants to use a new approach to develop medicines for diseases ranging from cancer to schizophrenia.

The Cambridge company, Foghorn Therapeutics, was created in 2016 but has kept a low profile. It focuses on research into chromatin, binding material used to package DNA into cells.

Company leaders explained what Foghorn aims to do this way: Just as airports need an air traffic control system to direct the movement of aircraft, the human body needs a system to control which genes our cells express, in what order, and how much. This so-called chromatin regulatory system is the body’s “gene traffic control” system, according to Foghorn’s founders.


A breakdown in the system is a major unexplored cause of cancer and other serious diseases. Foghorn wants to develop medicines to fix that.

The company was founded by Cigall Kadoch, who is affiliated with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, and the Broad Institute; Dr. Douglas Cole, of Flagship Pioneering; and Dr. Gerald Crabtree, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Stanford University.

Adrian Gottschalk, formerly Biogen Inc.’s senior vice president and neurodegeneration therapeutic area head, is Foghorn’s chief executive. Flagship Pioneering developed and launched the startup through its incubator, Flagship VentureLabs.

Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at jsaltzman@globe.com.