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Ohio State startup announces new investment

New funding will help take technology into clinical setting

A biotechnology company based on research created at The Ohio State University announced $116 million in new investment this week.

Entrada Therapeutics Inc., a privately held biotechnology company dedicated to treating diseases by delivering drugs into target cells, said the investment will support treatment of multiple neuromuscular diseases, led by Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

The company was co-founded by Dehua Pei, Charles H. Kimberly Professor in Chemistry and Biochemistry at Ohio State. When it was founded, Entrada raised $59 million from investors, the largest amount raised in the initial round of financing for an Ohio State startup.

Pei and his research team have developed an approach to treating so-called “undruggable” diseases. Approximately 80% of all drug targets are out of the reach of current drug development approaches and are termed “undruggable” by the drug discovery community.

“Drug delivery has always been the challenge. Companies have always been limited by what they can do, if a targeted approach is what they are going after,” Pei said. “There has really been a lot of incentive to find a way to get access to this 80% of undruggable targets. That really has been the focus of my research as well as that of many other folks around the world.”

Entrada’s technology can take different kinds of drugs to the intracellular space, a critical approach to treating challenging illnesses. Pei said the new investment helps validate the technology behind the approach to treating disease.

“People now recognize that this is the way to do it and that this has true potential. That’s very important for us in terms of boosting our own confidence,” he said. “We knew all along that this could work, but the acceptance by the outside world is, of course, good.”

With the new round of funding, the company will be able to take current drug candidates into the clinic. The goal is to show that the technology can work in and benefit patients.

The investment success for Entrada is a highlight of the university’s ongoing commitment to moving university-developed technology into the marketplace. As part of her first State of the University Address, President Kristina M. Johnson announced a $750 million investment in researchers and research over the next decade, encouraging the development of “killer apps” in engineering, health care, education and the arts and humanities. 

Pei said he hopes the early success of the technology, as well as the investment in the company he co-founded, serves as inspiration to his students and emerging researchers at Ohio State.

“I really hope that students will get two things out of this. One is that things they may think are impossible actually might be possible if you give it an honest try,” he said. “The second thing is that I certainly hope that my own students will get to see that even the greatest research starts with little things. Every day you do a job, you do things carefully, you make progress.”

Pei said that approach, the support of the university and his team’s dedication to the work have led to this point. Now he hopes the technology will transform the lives of patients living with devastating diseases.

“This is really the effort of many students of my group over the last 10 years. It’s been a long journey, but it has been a very good one. I call it a very exciting ride.”

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