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With Tensha Purchase, Roche Interest in Bradner Startups Continues

Xconomy Boston — 

Roche may have a new investment plan: Where James Bradner has been, it follows.

The Basel, Switzerland-based pharmaceutical giant announced this morning that it has bought Tensha Therapeutics, a Cambridge, MA-based company founded by Bradner, a physician-scientist who is now the president of the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research. Tensha is developing treatments for cancer using an epigenetic technology. Roche is paying $115 million upfront for the company and $420 million in potential clinical and regulatory milestones.

The announcement comes less than a week after C4 Therapeutics debuted with a $73 million Series A financing round from a variety of investors, including Roche and Novartis. Like Tensha, C4 was founded based on research led by Bradner, specifically from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Bradner left Dana-Farber last year to join Novartis.

Tensha is developing drugs that it hopes can disrupt proteins that mediate gene control and cellular memory; those proteins belong to a group called bromodomain and extra terminal domain (BET). The company’s first treatment, TEN-010, is a small-molecule BET inhibitor for cancer patients that is now in two Phase 1b studies, Tensha said in a statement.

Tensha has been managed and funded by Cambridge-based life sciences venture capital firm HealthCare Ventures.

Meanwhile, C4 Therapeutics is trying to become large-scale developer of drugs that harness the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS), a sort of garbage disposal system cells use to identify and rid themselves of unwanted proteins, as Xconomy reported last week. In addition to the funding, C4 announced last week it made a deal with Roche to develop potential therapies for the European company that could result in as much as $750 million in milestone payments and royalties.

Cobro Ventures led the $73 million Series A for C4, and was joined by The Kraft Group (the holding company formed by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft), Cormorant Asset Management, unnamed angel investors, and New York private equity firm EG Capital, as well as Roche and Novartis.