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Pfizer backs this women-led biotech in $107M Series C to develop pills for cancer, neurological diseases and rare disorders


Boston, US-based biotech startup Jnana Therapeutics, leveraging its next-generation chemoproteomics platform for rethinking drug discovery, announced the close of its $107 million Series C financing recently. 

The financing was led by Boston-based VC firm, Bain Capital Life Sciences with participation from existing investors, including RA Capital Management, Polaris Partners, Versant Ventures, Avalon Ventures and Pfizer Ventures.

The proceeds from the funding will be used to progress the company’s lead program in phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare genetic metabolic disease, through a clinical proof-of-concept (POC) study, and to advance additional wholly owned, potential first-in-class medicines in immune-mediated diseases and cancer. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Bain Capital Life Sciences to our strong syndicate of leading life science investors who share our vision for the potential of our RAPID platform and lead program in PKU,” said Joanne Kotz, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of Jnana Therapeutics. “With their support and the initiation of our second collaboration with Roche, we are well positioned to deliver on our aim of developing breakthrough medicines for patients.”

“With its unique mechanism of action of blocking phenylalanine reabsorption in the kidney, JNT-517 has the potential to be the first therapy for all individuals living with PKU, regardless of genetic background or age,” said Joel C. Barrish, Ph.D., co-founder, President and CSO of Jnana Therapeutics. “The Rare Pediatric Disease Designation by the FDA underscores the promise of JNT-517 to accelerate innovation for these patients with limited treatment options.”

The Boston biotech is developing drugs for cancer, immune conditions, neurological diseases, and a rare metabolic disorder.

“We share Jnana’s patient-focused mission and commitment to developing the next generation of best-in-class therapies that address high unmet medical needs across a wide range of diseases,” said Ron Renaud, a Managing Director at Bain Capital Life Sciences who is joining Jnana’s Board of Directors in conjunction with the financing. “We are excited to support Jnana as they progress their PKU program into clinical development and advance their innovative pipeline of potential novel medicines against challenging-to-drug targets.”

Jnana Therapeutics Chief Executive Joanne Kotz and President and Chief Scientific Officer Joel Barrish cofounded the biotech with researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in 2017. The biotechnology company is making drug discoveries to treat diseases with high unmet need. Jnana is focused on developing therapies to treat a wide range of diseases, including rare diseases, immune-mediated diseases and cancer.

In addition, the company is testing an experimental pill developed to help lower blood levels of a protein component toxic to people with a rare genetic disease called phenylketonuria, or PKU. 

Reportedly, the startup’s name (pronounced ja-na-na) comes from a Sanskrit word “meaning knowledge or wisdom gained from experience.” The startup has now grown to 75 employees and also has a lab of its own in Boston’s Seaport District.

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