Startup Alkahest inks a $50M deal for anti-aging R&D

Alkahest, a member of Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) just-launched biotech incubator, signed a $50 million agreement with Spanish giant Grifols to hit the gas on its novel approach to treating neurodegeneration.

Stanford's Tony Wyss-Coray

Under the deal, Grifols will pay $37.5 million for a 45% stake in the Redwood City, CA, startup, handing over another $12.5 million to fund research in exchange for commercial rights to some early-stage treatments. Alkahest's pipeline stems from the work of Stanford's Tony Wyss-Coray, who discovered that an injection of the blood of young mice can reinvigorate the brains of elderly ones, spotlighting a new approach to treating cognitive impairment.

The biotech has managed to isolate the blood factors responsible for that phenomenon and is now at work on plasma-based therapies that use the same principle to treat disorders of the central nervous system. And Grifols, a global heavyweight in the sale and manufacturing of plasma derivatives, is throwing its weight behind Alkahest to accelerate the program.

"By working together, we hope to translate our data from animal studies to humans," Wyss-Coray said in a statement. "If we are successful, it could mean new therapeutic approaches for treating numerous diseases associated with aging, including neural dysfunction and dementias such as Alzheimer's disease."

The news comes just a day after Alkahest took up space in JLABS @South San Francisco, a 30,000-square-foot biotech incubator launched by J&J. The company is among the first 10 startups selected to work in the space, where J&J provides a no-strings-attached R&D ecosystem designed to encourage innovation.

- read the announcement