NEA leads $44M round to get Stanford neurodegenerative spinout Annexon into the clinic

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Annexon Biosciences has snagged a major new VC to help back its ambitious, early neurodegenerative research. New Enterprise Associates has come in to lead a $44 million Series B round for the startup, which is slated to get the startup through Phase II data in two lead antibody programs.

Founded in 2011, Annexon is based on research on the role of the classical complement pathway in the central nervous system out of the lab of co-founder Dr. Ben Barres, who is Chair of Neurobiology at Stanford University. The initial research underlying the company dates back to 2006.

Its broad, preclinical pipeline of classical complement pathway inhibitor antibodies could offer treatments for a broad range of neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease, as well as in autoimmune disorders and ophthalmic indications such as glaucoma.

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 “What was compelling for me is that this appears to be the common pathway for neurodegenerative disease. We don’t have to understand the underlying cause. This is a fairly transformative approach to inhibiting neurodegeneration,” Annexon President and CEO Douglas Love told FierceBiotech in an interview.

Love joined Annexon in May 2014; he was previously the Head of Operations for Elan Pharmaceuticals ($ELN) where he led the Tysabri multiple sclerosis franchise, as well as its Alzheimer’s Immunotherapy Program. Perrigo ($PRGO) acquired Elan for $8.6 billion in December 2013.

The lead programs are for monoclonal antibodies ANX005 for serious central nervous system and autoimmune disorders and ANX007 for ophthalmic disorders. Both candidates inhibit a protein known as C1q, which is the initiating molecule of the classical pathway, and block the complement activation involved in neurodegeneration.

C1q mediates synaptic removal—including that of functioning and healthy synapses, which is one of the first events in the onset of neurodegenerative disease. The classical complement pathway, with its initiating molecule C1q, is thought to lead to the loss of nerve connections, inflammation and neuronal death.

The South San Francisco, CA-based startup plans to use this financing to head into a biomarker-based Phase II program. The idea is to use ‘smart biomarkers’ such as measures of neuroinflammation to assess the candidates to get early reads on the data.

It’s a “smart, effective, first-in-kind clinical program,” summed up Love.

Annexon expects to be in the clinic during the first quarter of next year. With this financing, it hopes to get human mechanistic data across its two lead programs.

In addition to new investor NEA, Correlation Ventures also participated in the Series B alongside existing investors including Novartis Venture Fund, Clarus Ventures and Satter Investment Management. NEA Partner Dr. Frank Torti has joined the Annexon board as part of the financing.

- here is the release

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