New Constellation Pharma CEO Gives Expected Timeline for Epigenetics Firm’s Cancer Drug Research

9/1/09

For all of the publicity it’s gotten lately, Constellation Pharmaceuticals has managed to keep a remarkably tight lid on the specifics of its research. So I was enthused when the Cambridge, MA-based firm’s new CEO, Mark Goldsmith, gave me some insights into where the firm stands in advancing potential drugs in the emerging field of epigenetics.

In quick review: epigenetics is the study of the molecular changes in cells that can activate or mute certain genes without changing the underlying DNA code—for example, by affecting the way DNA strands are folded. Constellation is a company to watch in epigenetics, in part because the startup has raised an impressive $32 million in Series A venture capital since launching in April 2008. And Goldsmith, a physician and scientist by training with both research and industry chops, is the latest of a string of impressive biotech veterans to get behind the fledgling company. (Goldsmith also filled me in recently about his early experience taking the reins at Constellation from Mark Levin, the firm’s founding CEO and chairman, who was CEO of biotech powerhouse Millennium before co-founding Boston venture firm Third Rock Ventures in 2007.)

Constellation, which plans to initially develop drugs for cancer, is so early in its research that it hasn’t decided on a compound to test in clinical trials, according to Goldsmith. The CEO told me that he expects the firm to choose one or more drug candidates for pre-clinical testing (which would include animal studies) by the end of next year, meaning that the company is at least a couple of years from its first real-deal human trial. He was mum, however, about which specific types of cancer the firm hopes to treat.

“At this time we’re not disclosing the specifics for a number of reasons,” Goldsmith said. “But I’d say a couple of things that differentiate us include selecting highly specific … Next Page »

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