Based: San Diego, CA
The Scoop: With some impressive venture backing, BrainCells is pushing its lead therapy into a mid-stage study and making a convincing case that it can find therapies that spur the creation of new brain cells--targeting CNS diseases without some of the major side effects that accompany SSRI drugs. The right kind of proof-of-concept data would position BrainCells for quick growth.
What makes it Fierce: Fueled by $50 million in Series B money, BrainCells has taken its lead therapy into a Phase IIa trial, testing its theory that spurring the development of a fresh supply of brain cells can address key CNS conditions--without some of the side effects associated with SSRI drugs.
But this company is also capable of plenty of surprises. BrainCells recently launched a new, six-week mid-stage study of a combination therapy of two drugs, neither of which had been approved for treating depression. And the company did it without any fanfare, quietly initiating a new program as it steadily builds momentum.
BrainCells has an intriguing platform for drug development. The technology finds therapies that have the ability to spur the production of new brain cells; neural stem cells that can have a therapeutic affect for a variety of illnesses. Exploring existing drugs for new indications is a rich field in biotechnology these days. And the technology has also been deployed for partners like Lundbeck, which has been scouting novel targets in the field. Organon went to BrainCells to test the neurogenic capacity of their drugs.
Its venture backing provides the capital needed to in-license more therapies, building up a pipeline of new drug prospects.
"The asset we've brought in from Taisho (last fall), we would move into the clinic next year," says CEO Jim Schoeneck. "That's the next set of milestones."
What to look for: Schoeneck likes to describe BrainCells as opportunistic. Key trial milestones lie ahead, but look for some surprises along the way. There's also plenty of potential for new partnerships as BrainCells explores the territory. Proof-of-concept data from a mid-stage trial will be a crucial milestone in the company's development.