CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Rheos Medicines, Inc. was launched today with $60 million in Series A financing backed by Third Rock Ventures, LLC. Rheos is pioneering immunometabolism as a novel approach to tune metabolic pathways in immune cells to treat disease. The company will translate recent breakthroughs in the understanding of immune cell metabolism to develop precision medicines for immune-mediated diseases.
The number of patients with immune-mediated diseases is large and growing in Western society, with an estimated 7-10 percent of the population with autoimmune diseases1 and 5-7 percent of the population with immune-mediated inflammatory diseases.2 Despite recent advances in treatment, there remains a significant unmet need. Understanding how variations in immune cell metabolism underlie patient heterogeneity provides an opportunity to bring precision treatments to patients.
New, in-depth understanding of immune cell physiology based upon research by leading academic scientists, including Rheos’s founders, points to cellular metabolism as a key driver of immune cell response. Rheos’s product engine takes a fundamentally novel approach to immune-mediated diseases by encompassing the full range of immune cells and their functions, and how they are regulated by cellular metabolism. In addition, by identifying new therapeutic targets and related biomarkers, the Rheos engine will address patient heterogeneity inherent to many immune-mediated diseases.
“The emerging field of immunometabolism offers a tremendous opportunity to set a higher standard for how immune-mediated diseases are treated. This opens an opportunity for Rheos to direct our medicines to a new aspect of disease pathogenesis by targeting the underlying cellular metabolism of immune cells,” said Abbie Celniker, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of Rheos. “By building on the discoveries of our founders, Rheos is developing a biomarker and drug discovery engine that will allow us to address disease biology and patient variability by ‘tuning’ immune cells in select patient populations with precision medicines.”
Rheos Product Engine and Pipeline
Rheos has developed a product engine that offers unprecedented insight into the drivers of immune-mediated diseases by characterizing how different immune cell types impact disease progression in different patient subpopulations. By simultaneously identifying new drug targets and characterizing biomarkers of disease, the Rheos product engine enables a precision medicine approach to treatment of immune-mediated diseases. Using the latest technological advances– including DNA sequencing, transcriptional and metabolomic profiling – along with incorporating primary patient samples, the Rheos product engine is an integrated immune cell metabolism and physiology platform.
Central to this product engine is a proprietary Immune Cell Encyclopedia (ICE), which maps the metabolic pathways used by different types of immune cells to regulate their fate and function in disease and in health. The initial focus of Rheos’s product pipeline is on therapeutics that target CD4 and CD8 T cell subtypes, which are involved in diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, vitiligo and in immuno-oncology applications. These immune cell subtypes are critical to disease pathogenesis, and Rheos’s product engine is providing insight into how these cells drive immune response in disease.
“I have firsthand experience treating patients with immune-mediated diseases based on my years in clinical practice, and it is exhilarating to apply the wealth of expertise and technology at Rheos to create new treatments and address these patient needs,” said Larry Turka, MD, Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder of Rheos. “I am excited to work with the talented team at Rheos and use our product engine to translate the powerful science of immunometabolism into the reality of new treatments that can make a lasting difference for the millions of patients with immune-mediated diseases.”
Expert team of immunometabolism scientists and immune disease clinicians
The Rheos leadership team includes recognized leaders in immunometabolism, target discovery, translational medicine and company building. Company leaders include Abbie Celniker, PhD, interim Chief Executive Officer; Cary Pfeffer, MD, interim Chief Business Officer; Laurence Turka, MD, Chief Scientific Officer; Edward Driggers, PhD, Chief Technology Officer; Ryan Cohlhepp, PharmD, Senior Vice President, R&D Strategy and Operations; Brian Albrecht, PhD, Vice President, Drug Discovery; and Hozefa Bandukwala, PhD, Senior Director, Head of Discovery Biology.
Rheos’s internal team is working alongside a founding team of leading scientists whose discoveries opened the field of immunometabolism and clinicians with deep understanding of immune-mediated diseases. The company’s scientific founders are:
- Richard Flavell, PhD, Sterling Professor of Immunobiology, Yale University; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Flavell is a world-renowned immunologist who pioneered the use of transgenic mouse models to study autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Richard is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Medicine (USA), and a Fellow of the Royal Society.
- Edward Pearce, PhD, Senior Group Leader, Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics; Faculty of Biology, University of Freiburg. Dr. Edward Pearce is a pioneer in understanding how macrophage and dendritic cell metabolism influences the function of those cells.
- Erika Pearce, PhD, Director, Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics. Dr. Erika Pearce is a world leader in T cell metabolism and understanding how different metabolic pathways tune T cell function and fitness.
- Ken Smith, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Head of the Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge. Dr. Smith is an international expert in identifying biomarkers which predict prognosis in patients with autoimmune disease.
- E. William St. Clair, MD, Professor of Medicine and Immunology, Duke University Medical Center. Dr. St. Clair is a former President of the American College of Rheumatology, he has extensive experience in translational immunology and the design and implementation of trials in autoimmune diseases.
- Laurence Turka, MD, CSO, Rheos Medicines. Dr. Turka is former President of the American Society of Transplantation, a leader in the fields of T cell costimulation and regulatory T cell biology. Prior to joining Rheos, Laurence was the Harold and Ellen Danser Professor of Surgery and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.
About Rheos Medicines
Rheos Medicines is a biopharmaceutical company developing novel medicines that modulate metabolic pathways in immune cells to treat disease. Our approach targets the underlying cellular metabolism of immune cells to redirect the fate and function of specific cell types to treat immune-mediated disease. By simultaneously identifying new drug targets and characterizing biomarkers of disease we are bringing precision to the treatment of immune-mediated diseases. We have brought together leading scientists whose discoveries opened the field of immunometabolism, clinicians with a deep understanding of immune-mediated diseases, and an experienced biotech leadership team. Rheos was founded by Third Rock Ventures and is located in Cambridge, MA. For more information, please visit www.rheosrx.com.
About Third Rock Ventures
Third Rock Ventures is a leading healthcare venture firm focused on disruptive areas of science and medicine to discover, launch and build companies that make a dramatic difference in people’s lives. By combining our team’s scientific vision, strategic leadership, operational expertise and innovative deal making capabilities, we nurture bold ideas that translate into successful business enterprises. Recognizing that the best way to create value for our investors is to create value for patients, our companies are built on a solid foundation of science, medicine, people and business strategy. For more information, please visit http://www.thirdrockventures.com.
1 NIH, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, fact sheet “Autoimmune Diseases,” November 2012, https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/materials/autoimmune_diseases_508.pdf; and AARDA, American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, “Autoimmune Disease Statistics,” https://www.aarda.org/news-information/statistics/.
2 El-Gabalawy H, et al., “Epidemiology of immune-mediated inflammatory diseases: incidence, prevalence, natural history, and comorbidities,” J Rheumatol Suppl., 2010 May, 85:2-10, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20436161.