Third Rock Ventures has launched Maze Therapeutics, a start-up focused on translating genetic insights into new medicines.

Alongside other investors including ARCH Venture Partners, GV, Foresite Capital, Casdin Capital, and Alexandria Venture Investments, Third Rock led a round of funding, which saw Maze raise an initial investment of $191m.

Maze Therapeutics is working to understand why the same disease-causing gene has different effects on different people.

Some people with mutations that are expected to cause severe disease only experience mild symptoms or are not affected at all. This variability is considered to be due to the effect of genetic modifiers, the differences in DNA that provide protection in some people.

The company intends to identify and study such genetic modifiers and leverage the obtained insights to develop medicines that could protect patients with severe diseases.

Maze Therapeutics founder and interim CEO Charles Homcy said: “At Maze, we are focused on expanding our understanding of the natural disease protection provided by genetic modifiers through an integrated approach that combines studying natural human genetic variation across the globe and conducting large-scale experiments of gene perturbations.

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“Through our integrated approach, we believe we will create novel medicines based around those modifiers to treat a number of diseases.”

The company will develop a set of technologies to identify genetic modifiers by combining large-scale human genetics and functional genomics.

This data will then be integrated with known biology to understand how modifier genes offer protection and can be targeted with drug therapies.

After identifying a protective modifier, the company will formulate it into an effective compound such as small molecules, biologics or gene therapies.

Additional reporting by Allie Nawrat

The newly formed company will be supported by experts in the field of genetic medicine, including co-director of the Broad Institute programme in medicine and population genetics Dr Mark Daly and Gregor Mendel professor of genetics and medicine at Harvard Medical School Dr Stephen Elledge.

Stanford University professor of genetics Dr Aaron Gitler, director of the Centre for Genomic Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital Dr Sekar Kathiresan and University of California, San Francisco department of cellular and molecular pharmacology professor and vice-chair Dr Jonathan Weissman are also supporting the new firm.

Weissman said: “We are at a critical juncture in drug development where we now have a breadth of genetic information that gives us insights into the root causes of disease, as well as powerful tools that allow us to test and exploit these insights.

“Maze has been established at the perfect time to combine these elements, which we believe will lead to important discoveries and new treatments for patients.”