California neurodegenerative disease upstart E-Scape Bio has closed an extension of its series A round, boosting its cash to $63 million.
The biotech can boast of some big backers, including VC OrbiMed, Novo Holding, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Novartis Venture Fund and Osage University Partners, as well as Lilly Asia Ventures and Sutter Hill Ventures.
The company is working on small-molecule drugs that target the inherited genetic drivers of neurodegenerative disorders and correct the dysfunctional proteins at the root of the disease.
The lead program targets the (ApoE4) protein structure, one of the genetic risk factors seen in Alzheimer’s disease.
Co-founded by Robert Mahley, M.D., Ph.D., president emeritus and senior investigator at the Gladstone Institutes and Yadong Huang, M.D., Ph.D., from the Gladstone Institutes, E-Scape Bio will also target potential therapies for Parkinson’s disease.
Both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have garnered a lot of trial dollars over the years and decades, but also been hit by a series of crushing flops, setbacks and, notably in Alzheimer’s, major questions regarding the overriding theories driving research.
E-Scape Bio is hoping to be a little different by targeting the potential genetic drivers of Alzheimer’s disease. The current hypothesis sees so-called tangles, proteins and plaques building up in the brain as being the culprit in the disease, and attempted to clear these; to date, however, these have not proven successful in significantly helping Alzheimer’s patients in tests.
“The ApoE4 allele is not only the strongest genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer's disease, it is considered a driver of disease in patients with one or more copies of the allele,” Mahley explained.
Huang, also a senior investigator at Gladstone, added: “Our work demonstrates that ApoE4 structure is the key to unlocking small molecules capable of targeting the most prominent genetic risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease.”
Leon Chen, Ph.D., interim CEO of E-Scape Bio, said: “We believe we have a solution for these challenging genetic targets that clearly have a role in the progression of these diseases, and will apply our resources to rapidly build our pipeline and advance towards the clinic.”