The biotech startup, Jnana Therapeutics has generated $50 million in a first round of funding with the intention of discovering the potential of a class of membrane proteins it labels the cell’s “metabolic gates”.
The Boston-based biotech is has stated that its concentrating on a class of proteins called solute carriers (SLCs), a supergroup with some 400 members arranged across more than 50 families which are involved in transporting substances across cell membranes.
Jnana has begun, with the support from Polaris Partners and Avalon Ventures as well as buy-ins from Versant Ventures, AbbVie Ventures and Pfizer R&D Innovate, to create what the company believes is the first drug discovery platform devoted to targeting SLCs.
This is not entirely unexplored territory, as several SLCs have been targeted to treat disease says Polaris’ managing partner Amir Nashat, Ph.D., and current CEO. Recognized drugs that target SLCs include older diuretics, antidepressants, therapies for gout and the SGLT2 inhibitor class of diabetes which includes Johnson & Johnson’s Invokana (canagliflozin) and Eli Lilly/Boehringer Ingelheim’s Jardiance (empagliflozin), as well as other.
A few years ago, a review article was published that concluded that SLC transporters “represent a plethora of new therapeutic targets for rare diseases, and may be particularly amenable to targeting with small molecules.” This is the space in which Jnana has its goals, stating it has a small-molecule platform that permits it to direct therapeutic targets across the SLC transporter spectrum.
“SLC transporters provide cells with knowledge about their environment. These proteins are amongst the oldest in biology, and afford avenues to address virtually all major diseases,” Nashat said.
Adding, “Our proprietary chemistry and biology platform allows us to systematically advance medicines based on the biology of these ancient information gathering systems,” he added. Jnana is targeting a broad range of indications, including cancer, and in particular is concentrating on immunometabolism, lysosomal function and mucosal defense, which it says provide “important targets for immuno-oncology, inflammatory disorders and neurological diseases”.
The firm’s founding team includes industry and scientific leaders, such as Stuart Schreiber, Ph.D., co-founder of Vertex, Ariad and H3 Biomedicine; and Ramnik Xavier, M.D., chief of Ga