Constellation Pharma Raises More Money and Further Defines Pipeline

6/17/11Follow @arleneweintraub

When Xconomy last checked in on Cambridge, MA, epigenetics startup Constellation Pharmaceuticals, in the fall of 2009, CEO Mark Goldsmith declined to disclose details about the company’s pipeline. These days, he’s willing to be a little more forthcoming. On June 6, during the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago, Constellation announced it had added $15 million to its Series B venture financing—bringing the total amount of money raised to an impressive $70 million.

And now the nascent world of epigenetics is getting a glimpse of how Constellation’s strategy and pipeline are evolving. In an interview a few days after the funding announcement, Goldsmith explained to Xconomy that Constellation is focusing on three different classes of drug targets, and he used terminology developed by Rockefeller University epigenetics researcher David Allis to describe them: “writers,” “erasers,” and “readers.”

In general terms, epigenetics is the study of molecular changes in cells that can activate or de-activate genes without affecting the underlying DNA code. Multiple enzymes—those writers, erasers, and readers that Constellation is targeting—are believed to play a role in epigenetic changes that may promote many diseases, including cancer, which is Constellation’s main focus.

Although the science of these enzymes is still not completely understood, they are all factors that modulate chromatin—the combination of DNA and the proteins that the DNA is wound around in the cell’s nucleus—as a means … Next Page »

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