Nanoparticle imaging startup Alzeca reels in $11M for Alzheimer's diagnostic

Alzeca will use its series A funding to carry its nanoparticle contrast agent through a phase 1 trial.

Alzeca Biosciences raised $11 million in series A financing that will bolster the development of its MRI-based nanoparticle contrast agent, designed for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

The ADx nanoparticle targets amyloid plaques in the brain, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. The funding will put the candidate through a phase 1 trial and support the development of imaging agents that target other Alzheimer’s-linked brain proteins. The company is also interested in creating imaging agents to detect proteins linked to other diseases, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is currently only diagnosed after death.

There is no single test to diagnose Alzheimer’s, but positron-emission tomography (PET) imaging may be used to detect amyloid deposits in the brain. But PET imaging is expensive, not widely available and exposes patients to high doses of radiation, Alzeca said. The Houston-based company hopes that ADx, which uses commonly available MRI technology, will improve access to Alzheimer’s diagnosis. In addition to catching symptoms early, an MRI-based diagnostic does not subject patients to radiation.

“The ability to diagnose neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s years before serious cognitive impairment manifests, so as to potentially intervene therapeutically at an early stage in the disease process, is a significant healthcare challenge,” said Peter Werth, CEO of Chemwerth, who joined Alzeca’s board of directors, in the statement. “We are excited to partner with Alzeca because its promising MRI brain imaging agents offer great potential not only to advance the early diagnosis of such conditions but also to aid in monitoring patient response to treatment both during drug development and in the clinic.”

Akili Interactive, which is working on video game-based diagnostics and therapies, reported last December that its platform could tell the difference between patients with and without brain amyloidosis. Akili’s diagnostic tool takes the form of a fast-paced action game on a tablet. The company hopes the “digital biomarkers” it measures could become a noninvasive option to screen for amyloid plaques in the brain.