Casma Therapeutics Co-Founder Reports Health Benefits of Increased Autophagy in Mammals in Nature Publication
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., May 30, 2018 — Casma Therapeutics Inc., a biotechnology company harnessing the natural cellular process of autophagy to design powerful new medicines, today announced the publication of a landmark paper by scientific co-founder Beth Levine describing the health and lifespan benefits of increased autophagy in a mouse model.
The study, published in Nature, describes observations of mice that had been genetically altered with a mutation in the gene BECN1. That mutation increased basal autophagy — the natural process by which cells break down surplus or dysfunctional protein, organelles such as mitochondria and viruses and other pathogens. Mice with the mutation lived about 10 percent longer than their litter-mates and were less likely to develop age-related spontaneous cancers and age-related pathological changes in the heart and the kidney.
A paper published last summer in PLOS Genetics found that the mutation also conferred protection against mouse models of neurodegeneration similar to Alzheimer’s disease.
“Our research continues to underscore the remarkable power of autophagy to maintain health and prevent disease in animal models,” said Beth Levine, M.D., director of the Center for Autophagy Research and the Charles Cameron Sprague Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Dr. Levine is also an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Dr. Levine is on the Scientific Advisory Board of Casma and has Founder’s shares in the company. She is a former consultant for Third Rock Ventures and receives licensing fees from them through UT Southwestern. Neither Casma or Third Rock sponsored the research.
Casma aims to leverage these and other insights to develop novel drugs that will boost autophagy and thereby halt or reverse the progression of rare genetic diseases as well as broader pathologies, including neurodegeneration.
“This publication is another reminder of how quickly the science of autophagy is developing,” said Leon Murphy, Ph.D., Casma’s senior vice president of biology. “There’s a growing body of evidence suggesting that increasing autophagy in mammals is not only safe, but also could have substantial health benefits. It’s an exciting therapeutic target.”
The 2016 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was awarded for the discovery of the key mechanisms of autophagy. Dr. Levine and colleagues first discovered BECN1 and described its role in mammalian autophagy 20 years ago.
About Casma Therapeutics
Casma Therapeutics is harnessing the natural cellular process of autophagy to open vast new target areas for drug discovery and development. Casma uses several approaches to intervene at strategic points throughout the autophagy system to improve the cellular process of clearing out unwanted proteins, organelles and invading pathogens. By boosting autophagy, Casma expects to be able to arrest or reverse the progression of lysosomal storage disorders, muscle disorders, inflammatory disorders and neurodegeneration, among other indications. Casma was launched in 2018 by Third Rock Ventures and is based in Cambridge, Mass. For more information, please visit www.casmatx.com.
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