Engage Therapeutics bags $23M to trial epilepsy drug-device combo

Epilepsy is typically treated with anti-seizure drugs. Engage Therapeutics is developing a drug-device combo that would serve as a quick-acting rescue treatment for seizures.

Engage Therapeutics, which is developing an EpiPen-like rescue treatment for epileptic seizures, raised $23 million to bankroll a phase 2b clinical trial of its drug-device combination treatment.

The Staccato device is a handheld inhaler that administers the drug alprazolam as quickly as an IV would, according to the company. The Staccato alprazolam combo was shown in a phase 2a trial to halt seizure-like activity in two minutes. Engage Therapeutics licensed the tech from Alexza Pharmaceuticals.

“Staccato alprazolam is a disruptive drug-device combination with the potential to become an EpiPen-like rescue treatment for people who experience uncontrolled epileptic seizures,” said Engage CEO Gregory Mayes, in a statement. “We are grateful for the value our new investors see in this novel drug development program and we look forward to their active involvement as we execute upon a clinical development program that builds on the safety and efficacy data of the Staccato delivery technology with alprazolam, a well-known and established benzodiazepine.”

About 3.4 million people in the U.S. live with epilepsy, including 470,000 children, the CDC says. It is most commonly treated with anti-seizure medications, such as benzodiazepines. But physicians may also prescribe dietary changes, surgery or a medical device for people with medication-resistant forms of epilepsy. Device treatments include implantable stimulators that deliver short bursts of electricity to reduce seizures.

“Benzodiazepines have an established history in the treatment and prevention of epileptic seizures. The Staccato inhaler facilitates rapid administration and uptake of alprazolam, stopping epileptic seizures in a manner of time not previously observed,” said Engage Chairman Heath Lukatch, of TPG Biotech, which led the financing.

In addition to completing its phase 2b trial, Engage will use the new financing to prepare for further clinical programs and regulatory submissions to “pursue worldwide product registrations,” Lukatch said.

Editor's note: The headline and first paragraph of this story have been corrected to reflect the amount Engage Therapeutic raised. It raised $23 million in series A financing, not $25 million.