Nereid Therapeutics: A new startup takes on challenges in cancer, brain diseases

Written by
Catherine Zandonella, Office of the Dean for Research
Nov. 16, 2020

A new startup company will develop therapeutics for cancer, neurodegenerative disorders and other diseases based on remarkable discoveries from the lab of Princeton University Professor Clifford Brangwynne.

The company, Nereid Therapeutics, will commence operations with a $50 million funding commitment from life sciences venture capital firm Apple Tree Partners.

“The formation of this startup is the cornerstone for building therapeutics for human use,” said Vice Dean for Innovation Rodney Priestley, a professor of chemical and biological engineering. “Whereas University research tends to focus on fundamental questions, startups can conduct the specific investigations needed to take the discovery to the next level, where it can benefit humanity.”

Clifford Brangwynne

Clifford Brangwynne, professor of chemical and biological engineering

Brangwynne, a professor of chemical and biological engineering at Princeton and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, is a pioneer in the study of the biophysical processes underpinning cellular behavior.

He is also the inaugural director of the Princeton Bioengineering Initiative, which aims to ignite new directions in research, education and innovation at the intersection of the life sciences and engineering. The initiative launches Friday, Nov. 20, at the Princeton Bioengineering Symposium.

Brangwynne and his team’s experiments have revealed that cellular proteins organize according to the same principles that cause oil and vinegar to separate in salad dressing. This liquid-liquid phase separation drives the function and dysfunction of processes in living cells.

The new company will build on methods developed in the Brangwynne lab at Princeton to study liquid-liquid phase separation and resulting structures known as biomolecular condensates. The company will observe the role that phase separation plays in diseases and develop therapies to restore normal function. Brangwynne will chair Nereid’s Scientific Advisory Board.

Brangwynne is a leader in the field known as soft matter physics. His work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a Macarthur Fellowship (2018), Wiley Prize (2020), Blavatnik Award (2020), and the HFSP Nakasone Award (2021).