Curing deadly and often untreatable diseases is the holy grail of science and medicine. The relatively new field of epigenetics holds promise. Finding a cure for cancer, among other diseases, was the motivation for Danny Reinberg, Ph.D., a professor of biochemistry at the New York University School of Medicine, along with partners Yang Shi, Ph.D. of Harvard Medical School, and Davis Allis, Ph.D., of Rockefeller University, the scientific founders in 2008 of Constellation Pharmaceuticals. It is the first biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering and developing novel drugs targeting selective regulators of epigenetic function.
In the last decade we’ve heard much about the human genome, or DNA, the blueprint for the human body, which consists of thousands of genes, the fundamental units of information necessary for normal cell growth and development. The epigenome plays a critical role in regulating the expression of genes; that is, switching genes on or off, or in the case of disease, switching genes on or off incorrectly. Because mis-regulation of gene expression can occur without mutations in the underlying DNA sequence of the gene expressed, the epigenome is critical for the development of organisms, as well as disease.
Epigenetics provides scientists with the opportunity to create a broad class of human therapeutics targeting selective regulators of epigenetic function, ultimately advancing treatments that modulate epigenetic functions to treat disease.
To date Constellation has raised more than $50 million in venture capital from Third Rock Ventures, The Column Group, Venrock, SR One and Altitude Life Science Ventures, which will support the move of the company’s drug compounds to clinical trials.