Third Rock Ventures has launched a new cancer drug discovery and development company, Tango Therapeutics, with a $55 million Series A investment. The new firm, based in Cambridge, MA, is exploiting a platform that combines sequencing and CRISPR-based screening to identify new cancer-specific targets and drug candidates.
Tango will have three primary areas of focus: addressing tumor suppressor gene loss by developing therapeutic approaches against synthetic lethal targets; identifying targets for therapeutic drug combinations against multiple cancer drivers; and identifying and targeting genetic changes that allow tumors to evade the immune system, to benefit existing immuno-oncology approaches.
The firm will focus its target discovery within specified cancer subgroups and use data from tumor sequencing and CRISPR-based target discovery to identify novel targets in those subgroups, including the potential for synthetic lethality, where tumors with a specific genetic mutation are killed by the effect of a drug against a different target. Tango says that one of its scientific founders, Alan Ashworth, Ph.D., FRS, first discovered that combining the BRCA1/2 mutation with poly(ADP ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibition creates synthetic lethality. Both AstraZeneca’s Lynparza® (olaparib) and Clovis Oncology’s Rubraca™ (rucaparib) have been approved by the FDA for treating BRCA-mutated ovarian cancers. Prof. Ashworth is president of the University of California San Francisco Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“Cancers are complex genetic diseases marked by multiple lesions in each tumor,” said Barbara Weber, M.D., Tango’s interim CEO and a venture partner at Third Rock Ventures. “These include genes that are turned on to drive cancer growth and those that are inactivated and thus unable to function as tumor suppressors. Loss of tumor suppressor genes is a hallmark of cancer, but the genes, themselves, are not tractable targets for drug discovery. The availability of comprehensive DNA sequencing, coupled with CRISPR-enabled target discovery, provides us with new paths to identify novel drug targets and combinations that take advantage of vulnerabilities created by loss of tumor suppressor gene function—something we have been unable to do effectively in the past. With the sophisticated genomics tools now available, the time is right for Tango to take on this challenge and focus on patients without effective treatment options.”