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of turning genes on and off, Goldsmith says. “We think there are drug targets in each of these classes.”
One of Constellation’s lead programs targets a member of the writer class called EZH2, Goldsmith says. “We are quite interested in this as a cancer target because it is commonly over-expressed in many types of tumors,” Goldsmith says. “It also harbors a specific set of mutations that are thought to contribute to the development of some lymphomas.”
But Constellation is far from alone in its pursuit of EZH2. Another hot Cambridge-based epigenetics startup, Epizyme, is also pursuing the enzyme. Epizyme has raised $54 million in venture capital and scored development deals with GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) and Eisai Pharmaceuticals. Epizyme and Eisai are now partnered on a program that aims to develop a drug for patients with EZH2-mutant non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Goldsmith acknowledges some overlap between Constellation and Epizyme, but he’s quick to assert that his company is taking a broader approach to epigenetics. “We are deeply involved in studying all three classes,” he says. “You can’t think about writers without understanding erasers and readers. We are a chromatin-biology based company. We think it will be more powerful to take a holistic view of chromatin.”
All of Constellation’s previous investors participated in the recent funding, including Third Rock Ventures, The Column Group, Venrock Associations, SR One, and Altitude Life Science Ventures.
Goldsmith, who was handed the CEO reigns in 2009 by Third Rock partner Mark Levin, says Constellation will disclose more drug targets later this year. With the funding, he says, “we’ve made dramatic progress. We spent our first two years establishing our platform. Now we can focus on developing a portfolio of products.”
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