D&D bags $137M to fund midphase Alzheimer's, Parkinson's trials

D&D Pharmatech has raised $137.1 million to advance treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and fibrosis. The series B will enable one D&D subsidiary to run phase 2 trials in Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s as well as set up another business to take a treatment for chronic pancreatitis and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) into human testing. 

Working out of sites in Korea and the U.S., D&D serves as the parent company for three spinouts from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The highest profile of the three subsidiaries is Neuraly, which raised a $36 million series A round last year to take long-acting glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist NLY01 into the clinic. D&D’s other startups, Precision Molecular and Theraly Fibrosis, are developing neuroinflammation imaging agents and a treatment for fibrotic diseases. 

All of the subsidiaries will benefit from the $137.1 million raised by D&D. Neuraly will use its share of the money to take NLY01 into phase 2. Trials in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are due to start in 2019 and 2020, respectively. The hope is that NYL01 will treat the diseases by inhibiting microglial activation and its effect on neuroinflammation. 

D&D thinks work at Precision Molecular could help Neuraly. Precision Molecular is developing PET imaging agents designed to enable detection of neuroinflammation in patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, even if the diseases are in the early stages or still asymptomatic. The series B money will equip Precision Molecular to run phase 1 and 2 trials of neuroinflammation imaging agents. 

The other slice of the financing round will support Theraly’s lead candidate TLY012, a long-acting recombinant form of the human TRAIL protein. Theraly has designed the asset to selectively target myofibroblasts, cells thought to be at the root of fibrosis, and thereby improve outcomes in a range of diseases. The biotech is set to put that idea to the test next year when it starts phase 1/2 trials in chronic pancreatitis and NASH.

To support the stable of startups, D&D tapped a mix of U.S. and Korean investors for money. Octave Life Sciences, a U.S.-based investor, led the round the with the support of Korea’s Smilegate Investment. Organizations that participated in D&D’s $16.6 million series A round last year also put in money.