Just weeks after the biotech he had led was bought in September by Alexion Pharmaceuticals for up to $1.2 billion, David de Graaf became CEO of a Cambridge startup with a new approach to treat metabolic disorders.
That startup, Comet Therapeutics, announced Wednesday that it has raised $28.5 million on top of $8 million in seed money. Comet plans to use the cash infusion to develop a broad portfolio of drugs to treat diseases marked by metabolic irregularities, from multiple sclerosis to rheumatoid arthritis.
Comet is focusing on problems with coenzyme A, a chemical that plays an essential role in cellular processes, including the metabolism of fatty acids, amino acids and sugars. It was discovered in the mid-1940s by scientists that included Fritz Lipmann, a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital who shared a 1953 Nobel Prize for that insight and others.
“We built this company on the shoulders of giants,” said de Graaf, 53, of Newton.
He said that Comet hopes to boost the levels of coenzyme A to treat an array of conditions, including neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
Comet evolved from a Dutch startup called TM3. It has 10 employees and is based at LabCentral, the five-year-old Kendall Square nonprofit that leases laboratory space to incubating biotechs. He expected the number of employees to at least double within a year.
De Graaf was chief executive of Syntimmune, a rare-disease drug maker, for about two years, before he left in early 2018. In September, Boston-based Alexion bought Syntimmune for $400 million up front, with the potential for $800 million more if its drug development program met certain goals.
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