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Immune Disease Precision Therapy Company Starts Up

T-cells illustration

T-cells (NASA.gov)

22 March 2018. An enterprise to discover biomarkers and precise treatments for individuals with immune system disorders is starting up, founded by six researchers in the U.S. and Europe. The company, Rheos Medicines Inc., in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is staked to $60 million in its first funding round, led by life sciences investment company Third Rock Ventures.

Rheos Medicines plans to discover therapies for diseases resulting from malfunctioning immune system cells that can range from asthma to autoimmune disorders, where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissue, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and treatments for cancer. The company cites published studies and data showing 7 to 10 percent of the population have autoimmune disorders, while 5 to 7 percent suffer from inflammatory conditions related to the immune system.

Rheos is applying advances in understanding the chemical functions of immune systems cells developed by their scientific founders that identify different metabolic processes in these cells, as well as biomarkers providing precise targets for treatments.  Those founders include immunologists …

Richard Flavell, Yale University

Edward Pearce, Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics

Erika Pearce, Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics

Ken Smith, University of Cambridge

E. William St. Clair, Duke University

Laurence Turka, formerly with Harvard Medical School, and now Rheos Medicines’ chief scientist

One of the company’s first tasks is developing what it calls an immune cell encyclopedia that details the metabolic pathways followed by various cells in the immune system, which determine their functions in human health. From these pathways, Rheos plans to focus initially on discovering therapies to correct malfunctioning T-cells, white blood cells in the immune system, including sub-types of T-cells known as CD-4 and CD-8. Among these disorders are inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, and vitiligo that causes loss of skin color, as well as cancer immunotherapies.

The company expects to apply genomic sequencing and metabolomic profiling to samples from patients to better understand precise metabolic pathways of these T-cells, to simultaneously identify biomarkers and new treatment targets. This process, says Rheos, can address factors affecting the progression of immune-related diseases among different sub-groups of patients.

Turka provides an overview of the Rheos technology in a blog post on the company’s web site. “The immune cell encyclopedia at Rheos,” says Turka, “will enable us to compare different types of immune cells and identify pathways and targets that are specific to the cells causing disease.  Importantly, Rheos is simultaneously including patient samples and identifying biomarkers in our encyclopedia, so that we can, for the first time, bring precision medicines to treatment of immune-mediated diseases.”

Third Rock Ventures, in Boston and San Francisco, is providing $60 million in equity financing for Rheos Medicines’ first venture funding round. No other investors were disclosed. In addition to financial support, Third Rock can, as in the case of Rheos, provide interim executives until the start-up enterprise is off the ground.

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