Rocky Mountain High: Atlas Venture Is Banking on microRNA for Miragen

Look out, heart disease. This week’s announcement of Boulder, CO-based Miragen Therapeutics closing a Series A round worth $8 million is the opening salvo in a new fight against the dreaded disease—and the coming-out party for an intriguing new company. The founding investors are Waltham, MA-based Atlas Venture and Colorado-based Boulder Ventures.

Although Miragen is based in the Rockies, it’s an interesting example of what local VC firms like Atlas are doing to develop early-stage biotech companies. Incorporated in 2007, Miragen was founded specifically to apply the cutting-edge science of microRNA—tiny molecular regulators of gene expression—to heart failure and muscle disease. The funding will be used to expand the company’s R&D efforts to study microRNA as markers of disease, and to develop novel therapies.

“Miragen has a laser-like focus on bringing forward products in cardiology and muscle disease,” says Bruce Booth, a principal at Atlas Venture and chairman of Miragen’s board of directors. What’s interesting is that Atlas is banking on a brand-new approach to tackle a specific disease. “There are other ways to build a company,” Booth says—for instance, by taking a broader approach to drug discovery. But, he says, microRNA and heart disease is clearly the way to go, given the expertise and track records of Miragen’s founders, who include Eric Olson of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Michael Bristow of ARCA Biopharma and University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and CEO William Marshall.

We’ll be curious to learn more about what Atlas is doing with its early-stage ventures, so watch this space.

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