Eisai launches first startup incubator under its genomics center for dementia

Eisai opened its first startup incubator as part of its new Cambridge, Massachusetts-based center focused on exploring the genetic links to dementia and potential immunotherapies.

The Eisai Center for Genetics Guided Dementia Discovery, dubbed internally G2D2, aims to move the company’s dementia and Alzheimer’s disease pipeline away from the amyloid beta and tau-specific therapies that have failed in the past. 

Instead, the center will work to build what Eisai describes as a new generation of immunodementia drugs—a novel target that could help modulate the body’s immune mechanisms that treat dementia by employing genomics research, data science and precision chemistry.

After the “transformative failure” of its Biogen-partnered Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab earlier this year, Eisai got up off the mat 24 hours later by announcing a new phase 3 trial of its similarly amyloid-focused BAN2401 therapy. 

RELATED: One day after aducanumab disaster, Eisai kick-starts backup Alzheimer’s drug trial 

Though BAN2401 did show signs of removing amyloid plaque buildups in the brain on PET scans, certain patients carrying the Alzheimer’s-linked genetic mutation APOE4 appeared to receive the lion’s share of the benefit in the high-dose group. This is normally a helpful thing to know, but an imbalance in the study’s proportions of patients carrying the mutation caused regulators to worry about side effects as well as the possibility the drug’s overall benefit may be overstated. 

RELATED: Biogen and Eisai try to defend Alzheimer’s drug BAN2401 against skeptics

To explore this and other scientific avenues, Eisai’s new custom-built Cambridge facility will offer 50,000 square feet of space and house 130 employees, plus outside help through the company’s maiden incubator program.

The Incubator for NeuroDiscovery will accommodate startups and spinouts focused on higher-risk discovery research. G2D2 will also establish several internships and training programs including postdoctoral fellowships in genomics and drug discovery.

RELATED: Eisai to close Andover site, move to new Alzheimer’s drug discovery center in Cambridge

"We look forward to being an active member of the Cambridge biotech hub, collaborating with and contributing to the world-class science centered here, and continuing to work closely with the patient and caregiver community to understand and address their needs," G2D2 President Nadeem Sarwar said in a statement.

Following the closure and relocation of its Andover, Massachusetts, site last year, previously run by Sarwar, the new center joins the Cambridge home of its H3 Biomedicine subsidiary focused on genomics-based drug discovery in oncology.