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Start-Up Reprogramming Stem Cells to Treat Heart Failure

Tenaya Therapeutics' founders

Four of Tenaya Therapeutics’ scientific founders, from left: Deepak Srivastava, Bruce Conklin, Benoit Bruneau, and Saptarsi Haldar (Chris Goodfellow, Gladstone Institutes)

7 December 2016. A new enterprise, spun-off from the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, plans to regenerate heart muscle from other cells to treat heart failure. Tenaya Therapeutics Inc. is also raising $50 million in its first venture funding round.

Deepak Srivastava, director of Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease and a professor at University of California in San Francisco, is one of Tenaya’s founders. Srivastava’s lab studies the role of gene networks in cardiac disease, particularly their interaction with stem cells and non-muscle cells in the heart to transform into new heart muscle cells and tissue. He and colleagues demonstrated this ability in lab mice to reprogram non-muscle heart cells into new cells that function like heart muscle, to repair heart muscle after damage.

Heart failure is a condition where the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, a condition affecting some 5.7 million people in the U.S. “When heart muscle is damaged,” says Srivastava in a Gladstone Institutes statement, “the body is unable to repair the dead or injured cells. Right now, the only possible cure for heart failure is a heart transplant. We hope that this new venture will bring us closer to a more scalable cure.”

Tenaya Therapeutics is licensing this technology from Gladstone Institute to find treatments for heart failure. The company is expected to develop a clinical application of cardiac cell reprogramming to regenerate new heart muscle in people with the condition. Tenaya also plans to use its stem cell models of heart disease to discover targets for new drugs to treat cardiac disorders.

Tenaya is financed by $50 million raised in its first venture round, with funds provided by The Column Group, a San Francisco investment company. The Column Group specializes in early-stage drug discovery companies, with Tenaya being its 20th portfolio enterprise.

Tenaya Therapeutics was first formed and incubated in BioFulcrum, a program at Gladstone Institutes to focus its basic and translational science resources on specific unmet medical needs, bringing in collaborators from other academic labs and the business community. The first disease target of BioFulcrum was heart failure. David Goeddel, a managing partner at The Column Group and now president of Tenaya Therapeutics, is on the board of BioFulcrum.

Joining Srivastava as scientific founders of Tenaya are Gladstone researchers Benoit Bruneau, Bruce Conklin, Sheng Ding, and Saptarsi Haldar, as well as Eric Olson from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. All of Tenaya’s scientific founders from Gladstone are also partners in BioFulcrum.

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