Drug discovery startup Jnana Therapeutics has come out of stealth mode with $50 million in funding that it plans to use to search for new drugs that target proteins that move substances across cellular membranes.
The Boston company says drugs that focus on this family of proteins, called solute carrier (SLC) transporters, could address a broad range of conditions that do not yet have treatments. Jnana’s research won early financial backing from seed funders Polaris Partners and Avalon Ventures. Those investors joined in the $50 million Series A round of financing, which added Versant Ventures, AbbVie Ventures, and Pfizer R&D Innovate.
Jnana’s academic founders are Stuart Schreiber, a Harvard professor of chemistry and chemical biology and a co-founder of Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX) and Ariad Pharmaceuticals, and Ramnik Xavier, chief of gastroenterology at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
The company is building a drug discovery platform focused on SLC transporters. In a prepared statement, CEO Amir Nashat said that only a handful of drugs have been developed to work with these proteins, leaving more than 400 of these transporter proteins unstudied. Jnana is focusing on immunometabolism—changing the metabolic pathways in immune cells to affect their function; lysosomal function; and mucosal defense. The company says these pathways offer novel targets for drugs in immuno-oncology, inflammatory disorders, and neurological diseases.