Alzheimer's experts team up with Adimab, grab $10M to launch Alector

Adimab CEO Tillman Gerngross--Courtesy of Dartmouth University

A pair of scientifists with deep roots in the Alzheimer's field is partnering up with two high-profile antibody development experts with a well-developed platform technology to launch a new biotech with ambitious plans to build a pipeline of new medications to combat the memory-wasting disease. And they're getting $10 million in seed cash from two marquee venture groups to get everything going.

The founding team at Alector includes a scientific partnership: Arnon Rosenthal, the former Genentech scientist who had tackled Alzheimer's once before as CEO of the CNS company Rinat Neuroscience, which Pfizer ($PFE) acquired for $500 million back in 2006, and Columbia University associate professor Asa Abeliovich, whose lab specializes in neurodegeneration. They're teaming with Tillman Gerngross, an experienced biotech entrepreneur and antibody specialist who launched Adimab, and his right-hand man at Adimab, COO Errik Anderson.

Polaris Venture Partners and OrbiMed Advisors, which helped found Adimab and Gerngross's GlycoFi, another antibody platform play which was sold to Merck ($MRK) for $400 million, provided the cash.

"We are running a very lean model where Alector can access Adimab when they need it," noted Anderson in an email to FierceBiotech. "It lets Alector focus on what they are good at (neurodegenerative biology and drug development) and Adimab on what it is good at (antibody discovery and optimization and selecting for good developability and drug like properties)."

"We are trying to develop completely alternative approaches," Rosenthal tells FierceBiotech, and he's well aware of the two primary focuses in Alzheimer's: beta amyloid and tau. Both toxic proteins are believed to play big roles in the development of the disease, but leading developers like Eli Lilly ($LLY), Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Pfizer ($PFE) have little to show for the billions of dollars that have been spent on recent R&D efforts.

Alector will set out with four targets for Alzheimer's, but will keep them quiet for now. Rosenthal, though, says that their growing understanding of the sporadic form of the disease--as opposed to the familial form--will help guide their efforts. And you can expect them to focus on early stages of the disease, which has emerged as the critical point at which new therapies are most likely to have their biggest impact.

The initial Series A should fuel their work in the field for the next two to three years, says Rosenthal. Adimab is a 2010 Fierce 15 company.

Special Reports: 2010 Fierce 15 - Adimab | The Top 15 Biotech VC firms - OrbiMed Advisors