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Ronald Berenson, serial entrepreneur, is heading up DMD Therapeutics. (CoMotion Photo / Conrado Tapado)

DMD Therapeutics, a biotech startup that was spun out of the University of Washington by biotech entrepreneur Ron Berenson last year, is emerging from stealth mode.

The startup announced that it raised a $400,000 seed fund round to pursue a possible treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a rare and severe form of muscular dystrophy. The funds come from three foundations dedicated to funding research for DMD treatments: Ryan’s Quest, Michael’s Cause, and Pietro’s Fight.

In an SEC filing from last year, the company indicated it plans to raise $600,000 in initial funding.

According to a news release, DMD Therapeutics’ first drug candidate was successful in preclinical trials in mice and will now move forward into human trials. The funds will fuel initial research and development efforts along with early manufacturing steps.

Duchenne is a genetic disease that primarily affects boys. It causes muscles to become increasingly weak, meaning many who are affected lose the ability to walk and perform motor skills at a young age. This weakening of muscles eventually leads to death.

Although there are some treatments that can limit symptoms of DMD, there are currently no treatments that target the underlying cause of the disease.

DMD Therapeutic’s drug candidate, DMD-813, reduced inflammation and muscle damage in mouse trials, leading to stronger muscles and reversing some of the effects of the disease.

DMD Therapeutics Co-Founder and Chief Science Officer Carlo Rago. (Photo via LinkedIn)

“DMD-813 brings together many of the attributes of an ideal treatment for DMD. It has demonstrated its therapeutic effects in skeletal muscle, including the diaphragm, a major cause of pulmonary failure that often leads to death in DMD,” Berenson said in a statement. Berenson is named as a co-founder of the company in the release, and last year’s SEC filing also listed him as the company’s president. 

The release names scientist Carlo Rago as the company’s second co-founder and its chief scientific officer. Before joining DMD Therapeutics, Rago founded and led OpenOnward, a platform for biomedical research review and grant making. 

Rago previously founded the nonprofit Duchenne Alliance and spent seven years as the scientific director for Ryan’s Quest, one of the company’s initial backers.

Berenson is also currently the president and CEO of ImmunoMod Consulting, Aequus BioPharma, and medical device company KitoTech medical, also a UW spin-off.

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