Amgen backs Harvard professors’ ALS startup QurAlis 

QurAlis has raised seed funding from a syndicate featuring Amgen Ventures. The startup will use the cash to advance treatments for three subtypes of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). 

Amgen joined with MP Healthcare Venture Management and Alexandria Venture Investments to put the latest tranche of funding into QurAlis, which bankrolled its early days using money from friends and family investors. Bringing the new investors on board equips QurAlis to advance programs based on understanding of the genetics and biomarkers associated with different types of ALS.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based QurAlis is built on the research of Harvard professors Kevin Eggan, Ph.D., and Clifford Woolf, M.D., Ph.D., plus technology developed by one of Eggan’s other startups, Q-State Biosciences. 

Eggan and his team created stem cell disease models derived from ALS patients, setting the group on a paths that led to the identification of a potential treatment for the condition. Woolf, a specialist in the regeneration and degeneration of the nervous system, co-authored some of those papers. The pair founded QurAlis with their collaborator Kasper Roet, Ph.D., and Q-State CEO Jonathan Fleming.

Recognizing that ALS is a spectrum of disorders with different roots, QurAlis is working on treatments that help subsets of patients. One program builds on the aforementioned research that identified the Kv7 channel activator retigabine as a possible ALS drug. Another aims to restore autophagy pathways.

QurAlis secured lab space to research the therapies at LabCentral’s Kendall Square facility last year by winning Amgen’s “Golden Ticket” event. Prior to that, QurAlis, which was setup in 2016, had kept a low profile. More news has come out about the company in recent months, with the seed round following swiftly on the heels of a stem cell licensing deal with ID Pharma.

Securing lab space, technology and funding in quick succession means QurAlis is now set up to push its three programs through lead identification and toward the bigger tests that await down the line.