Takeda, ARCH bet $24M on tRNA startup

Feb. 25, 2022

Startup hC Bioscience will push forward with its work in tRNA-based therapies after receiving $24 million in series A funding from investors like Takeda Ventures and ARCH Venture partners.

hC Bioscience is looking to advance two tRNA-based platforms for use in treating rare diseases and cancer. Celebrated for its flexibility and versatility, tRNA-based drugs could become pharma’s new hottest treatment. The technology is revolutionary in part because it can be used interchangeably across many disorders, with the potential to treat many diseases regardless of the gene or location of the mutation, according to hC Bio. 

tRNA, or transfer RNA, acts as a translator between nucleotides and amino acids when building proteins in the body. tRNA is responsible for turning codons — sets of three nucleotides that compose DNA or RNA — and building proteins.  

“We are creating medicines to restore protein function to its intended state without editing genes,” said Leslie J. Williams, president and CEO of hC Bio.

The Boston drug developer is currently working on two different platforms that can fix problems from mistranslations in the protein. The first, PTCX, or Patch, is aimed at fixing early stop codons. The second, SWTX, or switch, is aimed at targeting diseases caused by missense mutations in proteins that cause disease.

Early stop codons, or premature termination codons, cause protein dysfunction, a problem responsible for 10-15% of all human diseases, according to hC Bio.

The company was founded by Williams and Christopher Ahern, a professor at the University of Iowa, to translate and add to the foundational work Ahern had been conducting in his lab. hC Bio also touts an impressive roster of scientists, including Nobel laureate Craig Mello, who will serve as chairman and Page Bouchard, the former head of research and early development at Novartis Gene Therapies.

Keen to invest in promising startups, Takeda Ventures joined investors Merck Global Health Innovation Fund and Novartis earlier this month to contribute towards a total of $65 million in support of biomarker startup, Koneksa.