Oscine Therapeutics, a new biotechnology company based on discoveries made and developed at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) has received a significant multi-year investment to support both research and development of cell-based therapies for neurological disorders. The funding represents the largest-ever investment in a URMC start-up company.
The new venture is based on decades of research in the lab of Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., co-director of the URMC Center for Translational Neuromedicine. Goldman's work has focused on understanding the basic biology and molecular function of support cells in the central nervous system, devising new techniques to precisely manipulate and sort these cells, and studying how cell replacement could impact the course of neurological diseases.
Goldman has developed techniques to manipulate the chemical signaling of embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells to create the brain's support cells, called glia. A subtype of these, called glial progenitor cells, gives rise to the brain's main support cells, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes, which play important roles in the health and signaling function of nerve cells.
"Neurological disorders are complex diseases, but in many instances it appears that faulty support cells of the brain are driving the disease process," said Goldman, the URMC Distinguished Professor of Neuroscience and Neurology. "These diseases represent promising targets for cell-replacement therapies because we know a great deal about the role these cells play, how to create them, and how to get them to the areas of the brain where they are needed."
The investment in Oscine is being made by Sana Biotechnology, a new company focused on creating and delivering engineered cells as medicines for patients. The company is led by a team of biotechnology industry veterans with extensive experience in cell therapy, gene therapy, and gene editing. The company is backed by visionary investors including Arch Venture Partners, Flagship Pioneering, and F-Prime Capital Partners.