Riding high on early clinical trial results showing that its neuromodulation headset can improve memory and cognition and slow the deterioration of white matter in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, Cognito Therapeutics has now secured a flurry of funding to delve even deeper into the technology.
The series B round adds $73 million to Cognito’s coffers, the startup announced Wednesday. It’ll go toward the ongoing pivotal study of the noninvasive headset, which relies on light waves and audio stimulation to treat Alzheimer’s.
FoundersX Ventures led the financing, which also included support from all of Cognito’s previous backers and new investors including the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, Starbloom Capital, IAG Capital and the venture arm of Silicon Valley law firm Wilson Sonsini.
Alongside the influx of funding, the former Fierce 15 honoree also announced that Helen Liang, founder and managing partner at FoundersX, will join its board of directors, as will Rick Kuntz, M.D., who spent nearly two decades as an executive at Medtronic until his retirement last year.
Cognito’s neuromodulation platform is meant to be used in the comfort of a patient’s own home. The headset combines a pair of glasses and headphones and simultaneously emits flashing, gamma-frequency light and sounds, all personalized to each patient’s specific needs and neurological responses to the therapy.
The technology is aimed at stimulating gamma oscillations, a mechanism in the brain that’s been linked to the creation of stronger connections between the regions of the brain, more efficient removal of neuron-destroying proteins and the activation of microglia, the brain’s immune cells.
That approach stands in contrast to most other current Alzheimer’s treatments, which typically target proteins like beta-amyloid and tau to alter the brain activity linked to neurodegeneration. Cognito’s technology works in the opposite direction, with a goal of stimulating the brain’s electrical activity to change the pathology of those proteins.
Following the success of previous clinical trials, Cognito has now begun a pivotal study of the technology, in which 400 Alzheimer’s patients across the U.S. will use the headset every day for a year. Enrollment in the study began last month.
Early results from a Phase 2 trial of the technology showed that 33 Alzheimer’s patients who used the headset one hour per day for six months saw their functional decline—including memory loss and cognitive difficulties—slow by more than 80% compared to a placebo group, Cognito announced in 2021.
A year later, the company presented additional results from the study suggesting that its neurostimulation could also slow the rate of atrophy within the brain’s white matter, which is responsible for transmitting signals between various regions of the brain. During the six-month study period, the participants who used the headset saw their white matter actually increase about 0.4%, compared to an average loss of 2% among other Alzheimer’s patients.
“Abnormalities in the brain’s electrophysiology represent exciting novel targets for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases,” Kuntz, whose tenure at Medtronic culminated in a stint as its chief medical and scientific officer, said in this week’s release. “By broadening the therapeutic target from specific proteins to the underlying neuronal pathophysiology, Cognito’s proprietary approach has shown that it can fundamentally alter disease processes and potentially achieve disease modification unique from more traditional approaches.”