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Tenaya Therapeutics Launches with the Goal of Curing Heart Disease

Drs. Srivastava, Conklin, Bruneau, Haldar
A $50 million investment will push basic science discoveries from Gladstone toward cures for heart disease. Gladstone investigators and Tenaya scientific co-founders (left to right) Deepak Srivastava, Bruce Conklin, Benoit Bruneau, and Saptarsi Haldar. (Not pictured: Sheng Ding) [Photo: Chris Goodfellow, Gladstone Institutes]

A new biopharmaceutical company, Tenaya Therapeutics Inc., will build on discoveries in cardiovascular disease research made at the Gladstone Institutes, concentrating on regenerative medicine and drug discovery for heart failure. The new company combines Gladstone’s basic science expertise with the resources and translational know-how of the biotechnology industry.

Cardiovascular disease—including heart attacks and congenital heart defects—is the world’s leading cause of death. Heart failure alone afflicts more than 20 million people around the world.

“When heart muscle is damaged, the body is unable to repair the dead or injured cells,” explained Deepak Srivastava, MD, director of the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease and a co-founder of the new company. “Right now, the only possible cure for heart failure is a heart transplant. We hope that this new venture will bring us closer to a more scalable cure.” 

“There has been limited commercial investment in the cardiac field, despite the remarkable progress made at Gladstone and elsewhere,” added Stephen Freedman, PhD, vice president for corporate liaison and ventures at Gladstone. “Tenaya will advance some of the innovative work coming out of Gladstone, with the aim of developing new therapeutics for heart failure.”

Tenaya is supported by a $50 million Series A financing from The Column Group. David Goeddel, PhD, a managing partner at The Column Group and a pioneer of the biotechnology industry, is the board chair of Tenaya. JJ Kang, PhD, an associate at The Column Group, is a board director and president of the new company.

“The key ingredients for a successful company are a great team and great ideas,” said Goeddel. “With the stellar group of scientists that we’ve assembled, we’re confident that we will be able to build something transformative from the cutting-edge research of the Gladstone Institutes.” 

Tenaya will leverage Gladstone’s pioneering work in cellular reprogramming to search for cures for heart failure. One program will translate cellular reprogramming technology to the clinic to regenerate heart muscle cells in patients with heart failure. Other programs will use cellular models of heart disease created from stem cells to identify potential new drug targets. 

The new company is the first formed out of BioFulcrum, an entrepreneurial initiative within Gladstone that takes a milestone driven approach to science. BioFulcrum aims to accelerate the discovery of cures by bringing together scientists, multiple non-profit institutions, and industry partners such as Goeddel, who sits on the board of BioFulcrum.

“Inspired by the collaborative research at BioFulcrum, we wanted to establish Tenaya to integrate new findings and tools in the cardiac field and advance them towards clinical translation,” said Kang. “Our goal is to build a science-focused company that discovers novel therapies for heart failure patients.”

Scientific co-founders of the company include Srivastava and Gladstone Investigators Benoit Bruneau, PhD, Bruce Conklin, MD, Sheng Ding, PhD, and Saptarsi Haldar, MD, as well as Eric Olson, PhD, from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Other Gladstone scientists will serve as scientific partners (Katherine Pollard, PhD, Todd McDevitt, PhD, Nevan Krogan, PhD) or founding employees of the company, including Kathy Ivey, PhD, former director of the Gladstone Stem Cell Core and the new director of research operations at Tenaya.

“The launch of Tenaya Therapeutics exemplifies Gladstone’s fierce dedication to scientific discovery and to putting those discoveries on a path to pioneering new therapeutics,” said Gladstone President R. Sanders “Sandy” Williams, MD, who is on the board of Tenaya. “Deepak assembled a group of investigators adept at discovery within Gladstone, and our novel BioFulcrum initiative accelerated their progress. Plus, in Dave Goeddel and JJ Kang from The Column Group, we found the perfect partners for this new enterprise."