ModeRNA, Stealth Startup Backed By Flagship, Unveils New Way to Make Stem Cells
ModeRNA Therapeutics, a new startup out of Cambridge, MA-based Flagship VentureLabs, announced it has developed a method for producing human induced pluripotent stem cells, which are embryonic-like stem cells that are formed by reprogramming adult stem cells. Flagship and three other scientists co-founded the startup this summer with an undisclosed amount of Series A funding, as first reported by Dow Jones VentureWire this morning.
The research team behind ModeRNA, based out of Children’s Hospital Boston and led by Derrick Rossi, said the stem cells formed with the new method could be used to create an array of cells that can be useful in medicine—such as blood cells, neurons, and muscle cells. Rossi, who is also connected to the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, started ModeRNA alongside Kenneth Chien, who leads the Massachusetts General Hospital Cardiovascular Research Center, and MIT biochemist Robert Langer, according to VentureWire. The startup is backed by Flagship and one another undisclosed investor, Flagship general partner Doug Cole told me on a phone call this morning.
ModeRNA’s research team developed synthetic, chemically modified RNA that can incite cells to reprogram, while avoiding detection by cells’ anti-viral defense systems, which typically target messenger RNA (mRNA) involved in reprogramming cells to function like embryonic stem cells, according to the announcement. The researchers published their study online last Thursday in the journal Cell Stem Cell.
San Diego-based Fate Therapeutics is also working on technology to spur adult cells into functioning like embryonic stem cells, for use in the pharmaceutical field. The ModeRNA research team says that its modified RNA technology could be useful in regenerative therapies, by helping to incite the formation of muscle cells, or in boosting cell’s production of certain proteins, to treat diseases such as cystic fibrosis.
The company isn’t saying much about its specific plans for commercializing its modified RNA technology. But Cole said, “It’s generated a lot of excitement in the marketplace.”