If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.


Drug Discovery

858 Therapeutics launches with $60 million and acquisition of Gotham Therapeutics

The new company will advance Gotham’s lead epitranscriptomics program focused on METTL3

by Ryan Cross
September 20, 2021

A photo of Gotham cofounder and epitranscriptomics scientist Samie Jaffrey.
Credit: Gotham Therapeutics
Gotham cofounder and epitranscriptomics scientist Samie Jaffrey

After operating for more than 2 years in stealth, the biotech startup 858 Therapeutics has formally launched with $60 million in series A financing to develop small-molecule drugs for cancer, with an initial focus on RNA-modifying enzymes and innate immunity.

The startup’s name comes from one of the area codes in San Diego, where it is based, explains CEO Jeff Stafford. In addition to its own drug discovery programs, 858’s pipeline will get a boost through its acquisition of Gotham Therapeutics for an undisclosed sum.

Gotham, based in New York City, is focused on epitranscriptomics, the study of chemical modifications of RNA. Gotham’s lead drug discovery program takes aim at an enzyme called METTL3 that adds methyl groups to adenosines in RNA. Scientists have found elevated levels of METTL3 in some cancers, including acute myeloid leukemia, and multiple biotech companies are hoping that drugs targeting the enzyme could weaken certain cancers.

Storm Therapeutics, another epitranscriptomics company, published preclinical data on its own METTL3 inhibitor early this year and plans to start a clinical trial in 2022. Another startup, Accent Therapeutics, is also developing drugs that target METTL3.

Stafford says the financing should help advance 858’s lead programs, including Gotham’s METTL3 program, into the clinic by 2023. Gotham was based on the work of its cofounder Samie Jaffrey, a scientist at Weill Cornell Medicine. Jaffrey is now an advisor to 858.

Some of 858’s executives, including Stafford, come from Jecure Therapeutics, a small startup that was developing NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitors. Jecure launched with funding from the venture capital firm Versant Ventures in 2017 and was quickly acquired by Genentech in 2018. That acquisition came sooner than the company expected, and Stafford says the team “wasn’t ready to disperse.”

Versant agreed to back a new startup run by Stafford and others from Jecure. Versant also co-led a $54 million series A financing of Gotham in 2018 and led 858’s new financing.



This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.