CAMBRIDGE, Mass.– Kojin Therapeutics Inc., the leading company developing new targeted therapeutics based on cell state and ferroptosis biology, today launched with a $60 million Series A led by Polaris Partners, Newpath Partners, and Cathay Health, affiliated to Cathay Capital, with participation from Leaps by Bayer, AbbVie Inc., Eventide Asset Management, Alexandria, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Binney Street Capital, and several family offices. The company plans to use the proceeds of the Series A to accelerate its drug discovery platform based on its groundbreaking approach to cell state and ferroptosis biology and advance a robust pipeline of therapeutics, with an initial focus on oncology.
Founded by leading scientists Stuart Schreiber, Benjamin Cravatt, Stephanie Dougan and Vasanthi Viswanathan, Kojin has developed a proprietary approach to ferroptosis-based drug discovery that enables a selective and effective method for treating disease. For many hard-to-treat diseases, including otherwise drug-resistant cancers, diseased cells are in a state that is sensitive to ferroptosis, or iron-dependent cell death.
“At Kojin, we have pioneered a fundamentally new way of looking at biology that unlocks enormous potential for drug discovery,” said Stuart Schreiber, co-founder of Kojin Therapeutics. “It’s become clear that looking at cells anatomically is less important than looking at how cells function. Understanding cell states allows us to determine how a cell behaves and to target cells previously thought untouchable in cancer and other diseases. The ferroptosis-sensitive state is just the beginning.”
The company is led by Acting CEO Amir Nashat, Managing Director at Polaris, Acting President Susan Langer, former Head of Corporate Strategy at Biogen, and Chief Scientific Officer Kay Ahn, former Global Head of Molecular & Cell Pharmacology at Janssen. As part of the financing, Stuart Schreiber and Amir Nashat will join Kojin’s board of directors along with Nagesh Mahanthappa, former CEO of Scholar Rock, Tom Cahill, founder and managing partner at Newpath Partners, and Luba Greenwood, managing partner at Cathay Health.
“Preventing and curing cancer is one of the 10 big goals (“leaps”), Leaps by Bayer is focusing on. The Kojin team brings a deep biological understanding of cell states and ferroptosis that will allow us to discover mechanisms of action to treat cancers that today lack effective therapies,” said Jürgen Eckhardt, Head of Leaps by Bayer. “The company’s unique insights and innovative approach to drug discovery has the potential to move us from treatment to cures, and we’re pleased to support them as they accelerate their platform to deliver on that mission.”
Utilizing a novel non-genetic classification of cell states instead of conventional cell types, Kojin’s platform determines how a cell responds to its environment or how it responds to a specific drug. The company connects complex cell states to known biochemical processes such as ferroptosis to find specific targets for therapeutic intervention, tailored to each disease and targeting selectively the tissues it affects.
“Ultimately, our goal is to positively impact the lives of patients through innovative medicines,” said Tom Hudson, Senior Vice President R&D and Chief Scientific Officer of AbbVie. “Kojin’s world-leading discoveries in ferroptosis biology open up new possibilities for precision medicine, enabling novel, targeted therapies that could have life changing results for so many.”
“Kojin’s stellar team and lineup of world-leading scientists, clinicians, investors and drug developers are a testament to the potential impact of its differentiated biology on hard-to-treat diseases,” said Luba Greenwood, Managing Partner of Cathay Health. “As a cross-border investment platform spanning the US, Europe and Asia, we look forward to bringing the global outlook, resources and health ecosystem to support and further develop Kojin’s pioneering scientific discovery that stands to address multiple large, unmet medical needs across the world.”
“We are proud to be working with leading scientists and investors on our shared vision to create transformative medicines for patients,” said Susan Langer, Acting President of Kojin Therapeutics. “Kojin’s approach to utilize cell state and ferroptosis biology could open new avenues for the treatment of a variety of debilitating diseases including immune-based disorders, cancer, fibrosis and neurodegeneration.”