Reneo Pharma Launches with $50M to Target Energy-Depleting Diseases

Xconomy San Diego — 

Yet another new biotech company has been founded in San Diego by serial entrepreneur Mike Grey and other alumni of rare disease startup Lumena Pharmaceuticals.

Reneo Pharmaceuticals, which has offices in San Diego and in the UK, announced Monday it has raised $50 million to advance a compound it is testing as a therapy for diseases that hamper the performance of mitochondria—the parts of our cells that turn what we eat into energy, among other life-sustaining tasks.

Grey, who was president and CEO of Lumuna from 2011 through its 2014 acquisition by Irish drugmaker Shire, is Reneo’s executive chairman. (Shire is now part of Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. (NYSE: TAK).)

Niall O’Donnell, who was interim chief medical officer at Lumena at the time of its acquisition, is Reneo’s president and CEO.

New Enterprise Associates (NEA) led the $50 million financing round. Danish firm Lundbeckfonden Ventures, Pappas Capital (where Grey is a venture partner), and RiverVest (where O’Donnell is a managing director) also invested.

Does this sound familiar? It should: Grey, O’Donnell, and others founded another biotech, Mirum Pharmaceuticals, about six months ago. That startup, which debuted with $120 million, is also backed by NEA, Pappas, and RiverVest, among other investors. It’s headed by CEO Chris Peetz, while Grey is executive chairman and O’Donnell is a board member. (Some involved with Mirum, including Grey and O’Donnell, are based in San Diego, but its headquarters is in the San Francisco Bay Area.)

Reneo will use the money toward ongoing Phase 1b trials for its lead drug candidate, REN001, which aims to activate a type of receptor, known as PPAR delta, that is believed to regulate certain metabolic processes. The company is testing to see if it can treat rare mitochondrial diseases such as fatty acid oxidation disorders, which affect the body’s ability to get energy from fats in food, and primary mitochondrial myopathies, which are caused by mutations in the genes of mitochondria that can deprive nerve, muscle, and other tissues of energy, Reneo says.

Symptoms of the diseases can include muscle pain, weakness, cramps and muscle wasting, and sometimes rhabdomyolysis, a severe breakdown of muscle tissue, the company says.

In addition to the Phase 1b trials, the Series A financing will go toward other unspecified early-stage studies, the company says. There currently aren’t approved medicines for either condition, according to Reneo Chief Medical Officer Alejandro Dorenbaum.

“We are hopeful that our approach will generate meaningful data and allow us to provide a much-needed treatment option for people suffering from these diseases,” Dorenbaum says in a news release.