Axial Biotherapeutics nets $25M for clinical gut-brain axis studies into autism and Parkinson’s

Axial Biotherapeutics has raised $25 million to fund its programs aimed at the gut microbiome, for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and autism spectrum disorder.

Seventure Partners led the series B round, through its microbiome-focused fund Health for Life Capital, with support from Axial’s previous backers, including the Longwood Fund, Domain Associates, Heritage Medical Systems and a number of individual investors.

“Leveraging the gut-brain axis, we have made extensive progress in our translational research and are excited to progress our clinical programs in 2019,” said David Donabedian, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of Axial, which was named a 2017 Fierce 15 company for its three-pronged approach to CNS disorders, including small molecule-, biologic- and bacteria-based therapies to modify the microbiome.

The company’s Parkinson’s disease program evaluates organisms and genes found to be overrepresented in the guts of affected patients and has identified a pathway that can induce both gastrointestinal and motor symptoms in a preclinical model.

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Axial transplanted the microbiome of Parkinson’s patients into mice and found that motor deficit symptoms and inflammation were more severe in some compared to others that had gut bacteria from healthy controls, according to co-founder Sarkis Mazmanian, Ph.D., a professor of microbiology at Caltech.

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In autism, the company’s research has focused on reducing the brain’s exposure to microbial metabolites, in the hopes of improving core and noncore symptoms related to behavior, as well as gut health. Axial plans to advance its lead product, AB-2004, into a phase 1b/2a clinical trial in adolescents with autism by the end of March.