Biotech grabs $2M to discover biomarkers for personalized autism treatment

Seaside Therapeutics wants to home in on which autism patients are likely to respond to its lead drug, STX-209 (arbaclofen). The Cambridge, MA-based biotech won a $2 million award with funds from Autism Speaks, a major research funder and advocate for awareness of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

Delivering Scientific Innovation for Autism (DELSIA), a recently hatched venture philanthropy unit of Autism Speaks, is providing the funds to Seaside. Seaside (a 2012 Fierce 15 company) aims to initially spot gene and protein biomarkers in the autism field to determine the chances of a patient benefiting from STX-209, which the company has in mid-stage development for treating ASDs and late-stage trials for Fragile X syndrome, the most common genetic cause of autism.

"This program is an investment towards personalized medicine in autism," Robert Ring, DELSIA's president and vice president of translational research at Autism Speaks, said in a statement.

Seaside's STX-209 could be one of the first therapies to address the core social-impairment symptoms of autism and Fragile X. This is a big deal because there are no such drugs available, and autism rates have been on the rise in the U.S., where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined in 2008 that autism affected 1 in 88 children born in the country.

Swiss drug giant Roche ($RHHBY) grabbed an option to commercialize STX-209 from Seaside based on undisclosed development milestones. Seaside CEO Randy Carpenter told FierceBiotech earlier this year that his company expected data from a key Phase II trial of the drug in patients with ASDs this fall, with data from two Phase III studies testing the candidate in patients with Fragile X expected next year.

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Special Report: Seaside Therapeutics - FierceBiotech's 2012 Fierce 15

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