The fresh funding builds on Rome’s first Series B closing in 2021, bringing the total to $149 million. The oversubscribed round brought in new investors including Johnson & Johnson Innovation-JJDC, Bristol Myers Squibb, and more. Returning investors included ARCH Ventures, GV, Sanofi Ventures, and others.
Rome plans to carry out phase 1 safety testing of its drug candidate in addition to studies confirming how the drug works. The company also expects to continue developing its early pipeline and the technology that it uses to identify disease targets and make Rome’s clinical trials more efficient.
Rome researches the so-called dark genome – a part of the genome that doesn’t directly encode proteins. Some parts of the dark genome called repetitive elements can encode the protein reverse transcriptase (RT), which is vital for cleaning away diseased cells in the body. However, if the mechanism breaks down, it can lead to conditions in Rome’s crosshairs including autoimmune disease, cancer, and neurodegeneration.
Rome’s candidate is designed to tackle a range of autoimmune diseases such as lupus by blocking RT encoded by a region in the dark genome called LINE-1. According to Rome’s public release, the viral-like LINE-1 RT is only expressed in diseased cells so can suppress harmful inflammation without leaving the immune system exposed to infections.
In spite of the difficult fundraising conditions in the biotech industry at present, Rome’s Rome’s President, CEO and co-founder, Rosana Kapeller, publicly stated that the firm gained “significant industry interest” in the company during the latest round, including the strategic investment funds from four pharmaceutical companies.
Other companies working on the dark genome have also attracted attention in the industry. For example, the U.K. dark genome player Nucleome Therapeutics bagged £37.5 million in a Series A financing round in 2022. And in 2021, Boehringer Ingelheim recruited a different UK firm, Enara Bio, in a collaboration and licensing agreement to co-develop cancer immunotherapies based on the dark genome.