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CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 9, 2017-- Syros Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:SYRS) today announced the publication of a paper in a special cancer-focused issue of the scientific journal Cell that highlights gene control as an important area for cancer drug discovery and development, underscoring the promise of Syros’ pioneering approach to advance a new wave of medicines that control the expression of disease-driving genes.

The paper, which was co-authored by two of Syros’ scientific founders James E. Bradner, M.D., and Richard Young, Ph.D., focuses on abnormal transcription, the process by which genes are expressed and produce proteins, as a fundamental driver of cancer. Many aggressive cancers are dependent on an unusually high and constant level of transcription of otherwise normal genes to fuel their development and growth, a phenomenon known as transcriptional addiction. Because targeted cancer drug discovery to date has focused on identifying genetic mutations, existing genomic-based approaches fail to detect these transcriptional addictions, which can potentially be exploited to thwart cancer’s growth. The paper points to transcription factors and transcriptional kinases as attractive drug targets for controlling the abnormal expression of genes because of their key role in transcription.1

“The inclusion of this paper in this special issue of Cell shows that gene control is gaining the attention of leaders in the scientific community as an important area for drug discovery and development,” said Eric Olson, Ph.D., Syros’ Chief Scientific Officer. “Syros is a pioneer in gene control, and a key focus of our platform is understanding and drugging transcriptional targets to control the expression of the critical set of genes driving a disease. By creating small molecules to modulate these historically difficult-to-drug targets, we believe we can provide a meaningful benefit for patients with a wide range of diseases that have eluded other genomic-based approaches.”

Syros has built the first proprietary platform to systematically and efficiently identify disease-causing alterations in gene expression and create medicines to selectively target transcription to control the expression of genes with the aim of treating cancer, as well as autoimmune and rare genetic diseases. Because gene expression is fundamental to the function of all cells, the Company’s platform has broad potential applicability across a range of diseases and therapeutic areas.

Using its platform, Syros is advancing a growing pipeline of gene control drug candidates. The Company’s lead drug candidate, SY-1425, is an oral first-in-class selective agonist of retinoic acid receptor alpha (RARα) in a Phase 2 clinical trial in defined subsets of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) patients whose disease is driven by the over-expression of RARA, the gene that produces the RARα transcription factor. Syros’ second most advanced program is SY-1365, a first-in-class selective inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinase 7 (CDK7), which has been shown in preclinical studies to lower the expression of cancer-driving transcription factors in a range of transcriptionally addicted solid tumors and blood cancers. SY-1365 is on track to begin a Phase 1 clinical trial in the first half of this year in patients with transcriptionally driven solid tumors, including triple negative breast, small cell lung and ovarian cancers.

About Syros Pharmaceuticals

Syros Pharmaceuticals is pioneering the understanding of the non-coding region of the genome to advance a new wave of medicines that control expression of disease-driving genes. Syros has built a proprietary platform that is designed to systematically and efficiently analyze this unexploited region of DNA in human disease tissue to identify and drug novel targets linked to genomically defined patient populations. Because gene expression is fundamental to the function of all cells, Syros’ gene control platform has broad potential to create medicines that achieve profound and durable benefit across a range of diseases. Syros is currently focused on cancer and immune-mediated diseases and is advancing a growing pipeline of gene control medicines. Syros’ lead drug candidates are SY-1425, a selective RARα agonist in a Phase 2 clinical trial for genomically defined subsets of patients with acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome, and SY-1365, a selective CDK7 inhibitor with potential in a range of solid tumors and blood cancers. Led by a team with deep experience in drug discovery, development and commercialization, Syros is located in Cambridge, Mass.

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including without limitation statements regarding: the clinical progress of SY-1425, the initiation of clinical development of SY-1365, and the benefits of Syros’ gene control platform. The words ‘‘anticipate,’’ ‘‘believe,’’ ‘‘continue,’’ ‘‘could,’’ ‘‘estimate,’’ ‘‘expect,’’ ‘‘intend,’’ ‘‘may,’’ ‘‘plan,’’ ‘‘potential,’’ ‘‘predict,’’ ‘‘project,’’ ‘‘target,’’ ‘‘should,’’ ‘‘would,’’ and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements, although not all forward-looking statements contain these identifying words. Actual results or events could differ materially from the plans, intentions and expectations disclosed in these forward-looking statements as a result of various important factors, including: Syros’ ability to: advance the development of its programs, including SY-1425 and SY-1365, under the timelines it projects in current and future clinical trials; obtain and maintain patent protection for its drug candidates and the freedom to operate under third party intellectual property; demonstrate in any current and future clinical trials the requisite safety, efficacy and combinability of its drug candidates; replicate scientific and non-clinical data in clinical trials; successfully develop a companion diagnostic test to identify patients with biomarkers associated with the RARA super-enhancer; obtain and maintain necessary regulatory approvals; identify, enter into and maintain collaboration agreements with third parties; manage competition; manage expenses; raise the substantial additional capital needed to achieve its business objectives; attract and retain qualified personnel; and successfully execute on its business strategies; risks described under the caption “Risk Factors” in the company’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2016, which is on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission; and risks described in other filings that the company makes with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the future. Any forward-looking statements contained in this press release speak only as of the date hereof, and Syros expressly disclaims any obligation to update any forward-looking statements, whether because of new information, future events or otherwise.

1 Bradner et al., Transcriptional Addiction in Cancer, Cell (2017),