Storm Therapeutics, a spin-out company from the University of Cambridge’s Gurdon Institute focused on the identification and development of small molecule drugs that target RNA-modifying enzymes, has secured £12 million in series ‘A’ funding from Imperial Innovations, Cambridge Innovation Capital, Merck Ventures and Pfizer Venture Investments.
Storm Therapeutics is based upon the ground-breaking work of its founders, Professor Tony Kouzarides and Professor Eric Miska, in the field of RNA epigenetics.
RNA (ribonucleic acid) is the only direct product of the human genome and acts as the template for the synthesis of all proteins, the molecular machines of the cell. RNA is also known to be a key player in cellular decision making. There are several large families of RNA-modifying enzymes which catalyse a diverse range of epigenetic modifications of RNA, changing RNA activity and thereby key processes within the cell. There is a growing understanding of the importance of RNA modification in the development of cancer, opening up novel therapeutic targets in cancer treatment.
Professors Kouzarides and Miska and their research groups have identified certain of these RNA-modifying enzymes against which Storm Therapeutics intends to develop potential therapeutics using intellectual property licensed from Cambridge Enterprise, the commercialisation arm of the University of Cambridge. The company will use the proceeds of the funding to identify small molecule modulators of these novel targets in RNA modification pathways and develop them into new classes of anti-cancer treatments.
Professors Tony Kouzarides and Eric Miska, co-founders of Storm Therapeutics, commented: “The work that our research groups are undertaking on non-coding RNA and the enzymes that modify this RNA is giving us incredibly interesting insights into how gene expression can be modified at a cellular level. The funding and support that Storm Therapeutics has received from its investors will allow the development of these insights into a new class of therapeutics ready to be taken into clinical trials.”
Dr Robert Tansley of Cambridge Innovation Capital said: “Storm Therapeutics’ insights into epigenetics provide the potential to open up a range of therapeutic targets to treat cancer. Storm Therapeutics exemplifies the quality of companies with innovative ideas and great commercial potential that continue to spin out of the University of Cambridge.”
Dr Rob Woodman of Imperial Innovations added: “The Gurdon Institute’s work on RNA-modification is a fascinating and exciting area of target biology. The investment syndicate of Imperial Innovations, Cambridge Innovation Capital, Merck Ventures and Pfizer Venture Investments is delighted to be working with the founders and management team to make Storm Therapeutics a leader in therapeutic modulation of RNA modifying enzymes.”
[Image shows Professor Eric Miska and Professor Tony Kouzarides, founders of Storm Therapeutics]