Oisín raises $5M to develop treatments for ‘zombie cells’ associated with age-related diseases

Two of Oisín’s three co-founders: CEO Matthew Scholz (left) and Chief Scientific Officer John Lewis. (Oisín Photos)

New funding: Seattle biotech startup Oisín Biotechnologies has raised a $5 million seed round. It’s currently developing preclinical therapies that target and kill damaged cells that have been biologically turned off or are “senescent” and supposed to die. But as people get older, the cells can persist as “zombie cells” that accumulate and are associated with aging-related diseases.

The round was led by Althea Group, a New York-based venture fund investing in early-stage companies. Oisín has raised a total of $9.5 million.

Treatment approach: Oisín has developed a therapeutic delivery device that it calls a proteo-lipid vehicle that carries inside of it DNA and can be injected into patients. The vehicle fuses with a patients’ cells and releases its DNA payload into them. When it connects with a target cell — perhaps a senescent or cancerous cell — the DNA triggers its death. The startup has been testing the technology in mice.

What’s next: The company is focused on treating aging-related diseases, and this round of funding will accelerate work on chronic kidney disease.

“Chronic kidney disease, our initial therapeutic focus, has seen little in the way of therapeutic advances over the past several decades. We believe Oisín is well positioned to address this unmet medical need and will continue to explore other applications in tandem,” said Matthew Scholz, Oisín’s  CEO and co-founder.

The co-founders: Scholz’s background is in computer science, and he is a founder of multiple biotetch startups. He’s also CEO of OncoSenX, which spun out of Oisín in 2018 and is studying the treatment of solid tumors.

John Lewis is a co-founder and chief scientific officer at Oisín, a professor in prostate cancer research at the University of Alberta where he holds a named chair, and is a founder at OncoSenX among other companies.

Gary Hudson is the startup’s third co-founder and executive chairman.

What’s in a name: Oisín, an Irish word pronounced “USH-een,” is the name of a renowned Gaelic poet and warrior from the 7th Century. In his most famous tale, Oisín marries a fairy woman with whom he travels to a magical island of youth.

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