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Johnson & Johnson backs $11M seed financing in Cambridge-based drug developer

Mestag Therapeutics

Mestag Therapeutics, a breakthrough inflammatory disease and immuno-oncology company announced its launch recently with $11M (£7.9M) seed financing from healthcare investors SV Health Investors and Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc.

Innovative inflammatory disease and cancer drug discovery 

The company’s mission is to develop new medicines for patients by targeting activated fibroblast populations and their role in influencing immune effector cells in disease. 

Powerful new technologies enable diseased tissues to be analysed at a single-cell level, and this work has uncovered discrete fibroblast cell sub-populations shared across diseases, acting as “immune sentinels” in perpetuating and progressing disease. Mestag is building a pipeline of first in class therapeutics to interrupt fibroblast-mediated effects on immune cells in inflammatory disease and immuno-oncology.

Mestag’s approach inspired by landmark studies conducted by a founding team of five leading clinical experts across UK and US, who have uncovered new insights into fibroblast sub-populations:

  1. Prof. Michael B Brenner – Brigham Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Human Immunology Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston
  2. Prof. David A Tuveson – Director of the Cancer Center and the Roy J Zuckerberg Professor of Cancer Research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Chief Scientist at the Lustgarten Foundation and President of AACR
  3. Prof. Chris Buckley – Kennedy Professor of Translational Rheumatology at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, University of Oxford and Director of NIHR Infrastructure for Birmingham Health Partners
  4. Prof. Soumya Raychaudhuri – Professor of Medicine & Biomedical Informatics, Harvard Medical School & Broad Institute
  5. Prof. Mark Coles – Kennedy Professor of Immunology, Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Sciences and Official Fellow Reuben College, University of Oxford

“Mestag is founded by an incredible team of world leaders in fibroblast biology,” said Susan Hill, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of Mestag “complemented by seasoned drug discovery leaders Ray Jupp PhD, Chief Scientific Officer, previously CSO of immuno-oncology companies EnaraBio and TRexBio, Head of the Immunology TA at UCB and Head of Immunology Discovery at Sanofi Aventis; and James Legg PhD, SVP Research & Early Development, previously SVP Research Crescendo Biologics; as well as Samantha Macro PhD, Head of Finance, previously Head of Group Finance at Horizon Discovery. Their experience will be invaluable as we urgently progress our pipeline of therapeutics towards the clinic.”

Houman Ashrafian, MD, PhD, Managing Partner of SV Health Investors and Executive Chair of Mestag added, “Our commitment to Mestag is a great example of our strategy to seek to build truly innovative companies anchored by exceptional science and experienced teams. The team at SV Health Investors will work in close partnership with the company’s world-leading founders and scientists to develop its business plan and clinical pathway.”

Mestag founded to develop new medicines for people affected by inflammatory disease and cancer. State-of-the-art single cell analyses enable fibroblasts to be examined with exquisite precision, revealing multiple sub-populations and diverse functionality. Significantly, correlations have been established between fibroblast sub-populations in stromal tissues and disease progression or response to treatment. The discovery of these sub-populations provides us with the opportunity to develop novel therapeutics capable of reverting the phenotype of pathogenic fibroblasts for the benefit of patients.