Source: Nature Biotechnology

Companies advance tRNA therapeutics to overcome mutant stoppages in protein synthesis shared by thousands of genetic diseases and cancers.

Alltrna launched in November 2021 billing itself as “the world’s first tRNA platform company.” By engineering transfer RNA molecules — the cellular couriers of protein synthesis — the startup, backed by $50 million in initial financing, aims to address the mechanisms of faulty protein production that can trigger all manner of disease.

But Alltrna is hardly alone in its pursuit of tRNA-based therapeutics. ReCode Therapeutics, Shape Therapeutics and Tevard Biosciences all came before it; and the field continues to expand with the arrival of hC Bioscience, a startup that emerged from stealth mode in late February with $24 million and a plan to fight cancer and rare diseases with tRNA.

All of the companies are focused, at least in part, on designing tRNAs to bypass premature stop signals and incorporate desired amino acids instead. Such premature termination codons — which function like misplaced periods in the middle of a sentence to muddle the message encoded in messenger RNA (mRNA) — are responsible for an estimated 11% of all inherited disease. In theory then, just one ‘suppressor’ tRNA could conceivably remedy thousands of different rare inherited disorders, each caused by the same types of truncating ‘nonsense’ mutations that result in faulty gene expression.