ROME Therapeutics Launches to Develop Novel Therapies for Cancer and Autoimmune Diseases by Harnessing the Power of the Repeatome
$50 Million Series A Financing Led by GV and ARCH Venture Partners with Participation from Partners Innovation Fund
Initial Targets Identified and Multiple Programs Advancing as ROME Opens Uncharted Genomic Regions to Drug Discovery
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – April 27, 2020 – ROME Therapeutics, a biotechnology company harnessing the power of the repeatome in drug development, launched today with $50 million in Series A funding from GV, ARCH Venture Partners and Partners Innovation Fund. ROME was founded to discover and develop novel therapies for cancer and autoimmune diseases by leveraging new insights from the vast uncharted territory of the repeatome – the roughly 60% of the human genome consisting of repetitive sequences of nucleic acids, known as repeats. Drawing on deep expertise in oncology, virology, immunology and machine learning, the ROME team has identified several promising drug targets and launched multiple discovery programs.
The overwhelming majority of industry drug discovery programs target the roughly 2% of the human genome which encodes for proteins. Repeats have long been dismissed as “junk DNA.” However, recent discoveries at this frontier of biology have made it clear that the repeatome is a rich and complex ecosystem. Among other elements, it contains the remnants of ancient viruses which have integrated into the human genome over time. In addition to being vital for embryonic development, these viral-like strands of genetic material are activated in times of stress and may play a significant role in driving diseases such as cancer, as malignant cells co-opt the repeats to facilitate their own survival and growth. These insights are the foundation of ROME’s pioneering work to discover and develop repeatome-based therapeutics.
ROME is led by CEO, President and Co-founder Rosana Kapeller, M.D., Ph.D., who incubated the company during her tenure as an entrepreneur-in-residence at GV, where she is currently a Fellow. In her previous role as founding Chief Scientific Officer at Nimbus Therapeutics, Dr. Kapeller led the company’s initiative to apply advanced computational technologies to the design and development of novel therapeutics. Notably, she led discovery and development of a new class of acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC) inhibitors for NASH, later acquired by Gilead Sciences.
“At ROME, we have set out a bold goal: To drive even the most difficult-to-treat cancers and autoimmune diseases into sustained remission,” Dr. Kapeller said. “Too many patients do not benefit from today’s therapies, or experience only a partial response that quickly fades. We believe the repeatome holds the key to longer-lasting interventions. Our scientific founders together with our team have made excellent progress in exploring this uncharted territory and identifying promising therapeutic paths. With the support of our outstanding investors and advisors, we’re moving quickly to advance our therapeutic programs.”
“By targeting this uncharted territory, ROME has the potential to open up huge new stretches of the genome for drug discovery,” said Kristina Burow, Managing Director, ARCH Venture Partners and a member of ROME’s Board of Directors. “We are thrilled to be working alongside the ROME team as they seek to develop novel therapies for intractable cancers and autoimmune diseases.”
“Rosana has brought together some of the best minds in oncology, immunology, virology and machine learning to create a novel approach to harnessing the power of the repeatome,” said Krishna Yeshwant, M.D., General Partner at GV and a member of ROME’s Board of Directors. “We believe that ROME has the insights and expertise to turn cutting-edge discoveries in this field into an important new class of medicines, and we’re proud to continue working with Rosana and her team as they drive their programs forward.”
Shaping the development of ROME
The scientific insights leading to the formation of ROME came from clinical oncologist David Ting, M.D., and computational biologist and theoretical physicist Benjamin Greenbaum, Ph.D.
Dr. Ting, who focuses on understanding RNA expression patterns in cancer, is the Associate Clinical Director for Innovation at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Greenbaum uses techniques from statistical physics, information theory and evolutionary biology to understand the interaction of tumors with the immune system and to explore virus evolution. He is an Associate Member of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where he is an Associate Attending Computational Oncologist and inaugural Program Leader in Computational Immune-Oncology.
Julius Knowles, a Partner at Partners Innovation Fund and a member of ROME’s Board of Directors, worked with the scientific co-founders on company ideation. ROME’s formation was driven and shaped by Ari Nowacek, M.D., Ph.D., a Principal with ARCH Venture Partners. ROME’s founding intellectual property comes from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where Dr. Greenbaum previously worked and carried out foundational research.
A leadership team with deep expertise
In addition to Dr. Kapeller, ROME’s leadership team includes:
- Christine Loggins, Senior Vice President, Strategy and Operations, who comes to ROME from Celgene, where she drove strategic initiatives, governance, transactions and communications as Vice President and Chief of Staff to the Chairman and CEO
- Donna Romero, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Chemistry, a veteran of biotech discovery and development with deep expertise in medicinal and synthetic chemistry
- Wenyan Miao, Ph.D., Vice President, Biology and Preclinical Development, who joins ROME after leading drug discovery for autoimmune diseases and immuno-oncology at Celsius Therapeutics
- Kira Nelson, Vice President, Finance, a longtime biotech executive who has guided multiple companies through financial infrastructure building, forecasting and strategic planning
Supporting the leadership team is a world-class Scientific Advisory Board including experts in virology, immunology, oncology and genetics:
- Eddy Arnold, Ph.D., a Distinguished Professor at Rutgers University who was instrumental in the discovery and development of five drugs used to treat HIV
- Nina Bhardwaj, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Immunotherapy at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who specializes in translating basic science into clinically relevant patient trials
- John Coffin, Ph.D., the American Cancer Society Research Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine and an expert in retroviruses
- Matthias Götte, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Alberta in Canada and a renowned expert on viral replication and inhibition
- Daniel Haber, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and a leading researcher into cancer genetics
- Arnie Levine, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at the Simons Center for Systems Biology at the Institute for Advanced Study and a member of the team that discovered the p53 tumor suppressor protein
A veteran Board of Directors
ROME’s Board of Directors includes investors, business leaders and scientists with deep expertise in company formation and drug discovery and development:
- Kristina Burow, Managing Director, ARCH Venture Partners
- Rosana Kapeller, M.D., Ph.D., Co-founder, CEO and President, ROME Therapeutics
- Jeb Keiper, CEO, Nimbus Therapeutics
- Julius Knowles, Partner, Partners Innovation Fund
- Jay Parrish, Ph.D., Chief Business Officer and Co-founder, Vir Biotechnology
- Krishna Yeshwant, M.D., General Partner, GV
ROME Therapeutics is developing novel therapies for cancer and autoimmune diseases by harnessing the power of the repeatome – vast stretches of uncharted genetic material that have long been dismissed as “junk DNA.” With several drug targets identified and multiple discovery programs underway, ROME is moving rapidly to leverage this new frontier in biology. To lead this exploration, ROME has assembled a team of world-class leaders across fields including oncology, immunology, virology and machine learning. ROME was launched in April 2020 and was incubated at GV, in collaboration with ARCH Venture Partners and Partners Innovation Fund. ROME is based in Cambridge, Mass. For more information, please visit www.rometx.com.
Ten Bridge Communications