RheumaGen: Revolutionizing the Field of Autoimmunity

RheumaGen: Revolutionizing the Field of Autoimmunity

What the Company Does

RheumaGen is a cell and gene therapy company developing therapies with the potential to cure rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other major autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS), juvenile diabetes (T1D), ankylosing spondylitis, and celiac disease.

Current Landscape

Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system mistakenly identifies a part of the body as foreign, and activates its soldiers (T-cells, B-cells, etc.) to ramp up inflammation and destroy the “invader.” Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one of the most common autoimmune diseases and affects around 1 percent of the world population. In RA, the immune system attacks collagen in the joints, causing serious damage over time.

While expensive biologic treatments like Humira & Embrel have improved the lives of many patients, they do not treat the root cause of the disease. These therapies broadly suppress the immune system’s ability to fight off infection and must be taken for the remainder of the patient’s life. Currently, the majority of RA patients never reach remission, one-third become unable to work, and 10-15 percent known as “refractory” have the most serious symptoms but no effective treatment options.

RheumaGen will be a one-time, outpatient therapy able to treat “untreatable” patients because its unique mechanism of action allows for paradigm changing levels of efficacy.

Company Birth Story

In 2011, RheumaGen CEO and Co-Founder Richard Freed considered preserving their daughter’s stem cells for her potential future use. His uncle, Brian Freed Ph.D., Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado (CU), had recently set up CU’s cord banking program and advised, “Actuarily speaking, the odds are very low that your daughter will develop a rare blood disease, but cell and gene therapy is the future of medicine so who knows what we might be able to do with these cells in the future.”

Dr. Freed would become a preeminent expert in human leukocyte antigen (HLA) gene-editing technology. HLA markers are genetic sequences the immune system uses to identify which cells belong in the body and which do not. His company, ClinImmune Cell & Gene Therapy at Fitzsimons Innovation Community, is a world-class nonprofit biotech company providing HLA typing and stem cell processing for thousands of transplant patients across the U.S. Revenue from this life-saving work is used to fund research programs, like the one that led to the launch of RheumaGen. This health innovation is also very personal to co-founders Brian Hart and Ryan Hart. Their mother has suffered from RA for over 25 years and the entire RheumaGen team is determined to help Mrs. Hart.


HLA gene editing goes against decades of immunology dogma, which states that any mismatch to HLA type will be rejected by the immune system. Until now, they were right – but RheumaGen has discovered a way to edit the immune gene without rejection. This unlocks tremendous possibilities to finally ease the suffering of millions of autoimmune patients across the world.

RheumaGen uses proprietary HLA-gene editing technology developed by ClinImmune Cell & Gene Therapy to “turn off” the genetic trigger to RA and stop the patient’s immune system from attacking its own joints. RheumaGen is developing a pipeline of treatments for multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, ankylosing spondylitis, and celiac disease. The company has completed preclinical studies on its lead indication of RA, has received excellent initial feedback from the FDA, and plans to begin its first clinical trial in RA next year.

Founder Quote 

We’re not interested in incremental improvements. We seek cures, we seek remission, we seek to relieve the burden that these patients and their families have carried for so long…because that is the potential of HLA gene editing.”

Richard Freed, CEO, RheumaGen

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