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Moma Launches with $86 Million to Target Molecular Machines Underlying Disease

April 15, 2020

Moma Therapeutics raised $86 million in a series A financing to develop the next generation of precision medicines by targeting the molecular machines that underlie human disease.

Moma plans to systematically interrogate a class of 400 enzymes, the molecular machines that are the workhorse of the cell. “Molecular machines are a very rich target class that function to move things around the cell utilizing the energy that comes from the hydrolysis of ATP,” says Tim Guzi, senior vice president of drug discovery in a video posted on Twitter.

In a blog post announcing its launch, the company wrote that recent advances in genetics and functional genomics are revealing crucial roles for molecular machines in areas of unmet medical need in cancer and rare diseases.

“In rare genetic disorders, point mutations in the machines themselves lead to altered or insufficient function,” the company wrote. “In fact, over half of the cell’s molecular machines have been shown to harbor variations that can contribute to human disease.  In some of these cases, restoration of the machine’s function provides a compelling therapeutic approach.”

Drugs that modulate the cystic fibrosis transporter, a molecular machine that when mutated causes CF, is an example of where Moma will focus its efforts. But it took more than 20 years for Vertex to bring a CF drug to market, and only a handful of drugs targeting these enzymes have been approved to date. Moma notes that most of these “were discovered from natural products, through serendipity or without a systematic approach to interrogating the biochemistry of the proteins themselves.”

Moma plans to change that by taking a holistic view of these 400 enzymes as a family, and establishing a platform that it writes “exploits a key vulnerability to all enzymes in the class: their dependence on well-coordinated, stepwise changes in protein conformation. Using advanced genetic and functional genomic technologies, Moma will systematically survey all of their conformational states to identify small molecule binders. 

“Technology finally exists to allow us to see them in their full form, watch everything they are doing, and understand how what they are doing and how their moving has impact on other things,” said Sarah Larson, Moma chief people officer, in the video.

Moma is founded by a group of academic scientists: Dorothee Kern, of HHMI and Brandeis University, an expert in protein biophysics and motion; Eva Nogales, of HHMI and UC Berkeley, a pioneer in the field of Cryo-EM and structural biology; and Johannes Walter, of HHMI and Harvard Medical School, a leader in the field of molecular machines and genome maintenance.

They are joined by Timur Yusufzai, entrepreneur-in residence at Third Rock Ventures, former assistant professor, Harvard Medical School, and an expert on the biochemistry of molecular machines. CEO Reid Huber, partner at Third Rock, leads the management team.

The financing was led by Third Rock Ventures and including Nextech Invest, Cormorant Asset Management, Creacion Ventures, Casdin Capital, and Rock Springs Capital.

Photo: Reid Huber, CEO of Moma Therapeutics

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