Boston-Harvard Spinout 28-7 Launches with $65M for MicroRNA Cancer Drugs

Tackling tumors head-on isn’t the only way to treat cancer. New cancer biotech 28-7 Therapeutics, a Harvard spinout, is researching an approach that targets cellular fragments that play key roles in cancer growth, and it now has $65 million in funding to advance its work.

MPM Capital and Novartis Venture Fund co-led the investment in 28-7, which is the Cambridge, MA, company’s Series A round of financing.

Much of the human genome does not translate into proteins—rather, it produces non-coding RNA (ncRNA). These molecules had been dismissed as “junk” that was mostly useless as potential drug targets. But 28-7 notes that research from the past decade has shown that these molecules play roles in regulating biological processes, including the start, growth, and spread of cancer. Rather than targeting RNA, 28-7 is developing drugs that target microRNAs, small ncRNAs that regulate gene expression.

28-7’s name comes from its lead drug program. The small molecule drug targets an RNA-modulating protein called Lin28. This protein modulates an ncRNA called Let-7, which suppresses tumor activity. By blocking the activity of Lin28, the company says, it hopes its drug can raise Let-7 levels and, in turn, treat cancer. The company has not yet said which types of cancers it aims to treat.

The technology underlying 28-7’s approach comes from four Harvard Medical School scientists who have backgrounds in RNA biology and cancer research: George Daley, Richard Gregory, Frank Slack, and Piotr Sliz. In addition to the financing, 28-7 announced that it has hired Shomir Ghosh as its chief scientific officer. Ghosh was most recently the chief scientific officer at Boston-based IFM Therapeutics.

Other investors who contributed to 28-7’s financing were Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Vertex Ventures, Longwood Fund, and Astellas Venture Management.