Third Rock Ventures Launches Ember Therapeutics with $34M

Boston-based Third Rock Ventures has unveiled a new company, Ember Therapeutics, a product-focused company that’s trying to harness breakthroughs in brown fat biology and insulin sensitization to revolutionize the treatment of metabolic disease. Third Rock, a venture firm that helps incubate life sciences companies, has given Ember $34 million in Series A financing.


BOSTON, Dec 15, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Third Rock Ventures, LLC today announced the formation of Ember Therapeutics. The company was launched with a $34 million Series A financing. Ember’s unique approach translates its world-class biology in the emerging area of brown fat biology, as well as recent breakthroughs in understanding the mechanisms of selective insulin sensitivity, into a proprietary pipeline of peripherally-acting treatments for metabolic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes and obesity. The founders of the company are Bruce Spiegelman, Ph.D., professor of cell biology, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School; Patrick Griffin, Ph.D., chairman and professor of the department of molecular therapeutics at The Scripps Research Institute, Scripps Florida; and C. Ronald Kahn, M.D., professor of medicine, Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard Medical School, along with Third Rock Ventures.

“It is an unfortunate truth that Type 2 diabetes and obesity are a worldwide epidemic. This rising disease prevalence and a critical need for innovation in the pharmaceutical industry’s metabolic disease pipeline means there is a real opportunity for Ember to discover and develop new approaches to these conditions,” said Louis Tartaglia, Ph.D., president and interim chief executive officer of Ember Therapeutics and partner at Third Rock Ventures, LLC. “Ember’s team of world-leading scientists, our proprietary programs in brown fat biology and selective insulin sensitization and our exclusive licenses to key intellectual property and technology uniquely position us to address this growing medical challenge and dramatically impact the lives of patients.”

Unlike white fat, which stores energy, brown fat burns off caloric energy. While humans are born with large amounts of brown fat, adults lose most of these brown fat stores to maximize metabolic efficiency and enable them to survive when food is not plentiful. However, in today’s abundant food environment, this metabolic efficiency is actually a major contributor to metabolic disease including obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Ember is harnessing research breakthroughs in brown fat biology to develop a broad pipeline of large and small molecule programs that augment and activate the body’s brown fat, amplifying the natural ability to efficiently burn fuel stores such as glucose and lipids to reduce stored calories in the body.

“Recent scientific discoveries confirm that adults possess brown fat, and research has now shown that augmenting and activating brown fat results in weight loss and has a significant impact on the drivers of metabolic disease. As a result, brown fat targets and therapeutic pathways are key to developing new and effective treatments for metabolic disorders,” said Dr. Spiegelman. “What is equally exciting for Ember is our position at the important crossroads of insulin resistance and diabetes. More than ever before, we have a true understanding of how novel selective insulin sensitizers could produce anti-diabetic effects without the toxic side effects associated with currently available therapies. These advances could significantly change and improve the way patients with metabolic disease are treated.”

Ember is also driving the development of the next generation of highly selective insulin sensitizers. Currently available insulin sensitizers have potent anti-diabetic effects that were believed to be driven by their agonism of a key nuclear hormone receptor, but are also associated with significant safety concerns. However, two key studies published in Nature and authored by Ember founders show that it is the inhibition of CDK5 phosphorylation of this nuclear hormone receptor that is the therapeutic driver of the anti-diabetic effect, while the receptor agonism is the driver of the adverse events associated with these therapies. The studies also show that it is possible to create new drugs that are non-agonists yet potently block the CDK5 phosphorylation of the nuclear hormone receptor. Building on these findings, Ember is developing optimized, proprietary small molecules that retain the full anti-diabetic effect but without the toxic side effects of current treatments.

Joining Drs. Spiegelman, Griffin and Kahn on the scientific advisory board of Ember Therapeutics are John Amatruda, M.D., formerly senior vice president and franchise head for diabetes and obesity at Merck; Sven Enerback, M.D., Ph.D., professor and co-director of the Sahlgrenska Center for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research, University of Gothenburg; Jeffrey Friedman, M.D., Ph.D., professor at Rockefeller University and investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Vamsi Mootha, M.D., professor at Harvard Medical School; Jan Nedergaard, Ph.D., professor at The Wenner-Gren Institute of Stockholm University; and Jasbir Seehra, Ph.D., co-founder and former chief scientific officer of Acceleron Pharma, Inc. In addition to Dr. Tartaglia, the Ember management team includes chief operating officer Michael E. Solomon, Ph.D., who previously served as chief business and technology officer of Link Medicine.

While diabetes currently affects one in 10 U.S. adults, the Centers for Disease Control forecasts that up to one in three American adults could have diabetes by 2050. Experts attribute the rise in obesity nationwide — about one-third of all U.S. adults are obese and another third are overweight — as one of the major contributors to this growing epidemic. The direct annual medical costs associated with Type 2 diabetes and obesity are more than $265 billion in the U.S. alone.

About Ember Therapeutics

Ember Therapeutics is a product-focused company harnessing breakthroughs in brown fat biology and insulin sensitization to revolutionize the treatment of metabolic disease. Today’s rising epidemic of obesity and Type 2 diabetes coupled with the lack of innovation in the industry’s metabolic disorder treatment pipeline underscores the need for novel, peripherally-acting treatments with improved safety profiles. Ember’s unique approach leverages recent research breakthroughs in brown fat biology to develop a pipeline of proprietary large and small molecules designed to amplify the body’s innate ability to efficiently burn fuels like glucose. Ember’s expertise is also driving the development of the next generation of highly selective insulin sensitizers that have robust anti-diabetic effects, but lack the serious side effects of currently approved insulin sensitizers. Formerly known as Adipothermics, Ember Therapeutics is a private company launched in 2011 by renowned scientific founders, an experienced leadership team and Third Rock Ventures. For more information, please visit .

About Third Rock Ventures

Third Rock Ventures is a venture capital firm founded in 2007 with the mission to launch transformative life sciences companies. With more than $800 million and two funds under management, the firm is focused on working with passionate entrepreneurs to build exceptional companies working in areas of disruptive science that will make a difference in the lives of patients. The firm has assembled a team with deep expertise and a proven track record of building respected and successful life sciences companies. With decades of complementary, cross-functional operational and leadership experience, the Third Rock team actively engages with its portfolio companies to provide hands-on strategy and experience to successfully launch companies with the best vision, science, operations, people and culture. With offices in Boston, MA and San Francisco, CA, Third Rock is well positioned geographically to closely collaborate with its portfolio companies to achieve their goals. To learn more about Third Rock and its portfolio companies, please visit

SOURCE: Ember Therapeutics