Civitas scoops up $38M B round for inhaled Parkinson's drug

Civitas CEO Glenn Batchelder

Civitas Therapeutics has scored fresh financing en route to potential late-stage development of an inhaled form of levodopa to treat symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Bay City Capital led the $38 million Series B round, which follows the start of a Phase IIb study for the startup's Parkinson's candidate CVT-301.

Other first-time backers included RA Capital and another, undisclosed public investment group. Alkermes ($ALKS), which licensed inhaled drug-delivery tech to Civitas, took part in the financing with other previous investors Canaan Partners, Fountain Healthcare Partners and Longitude Capital. Bay City's Rob Hopfner and RA Capital's Rajeev Shah joined the board of directors at Civitas.

Led by CEO Glenn Batchelder, Civitas has shown early evidence of efficacy from a Phase IIa study of CVT-301. The candidate is designed to help Parkinson's patients on levodopa maintain high levels of dopamine and avoid so-called "off" periods that trigger irregular movements. The company says patients on oral levodopa alone experience such difficulties.

Civitas is targeting a major market. Parkinson's disease, which affects more than 1 million Americans, reduces dopamine production in the brain, leading to problems controlling movements. Levodopa is the most widely used drug for treating symptoms of the neurological illness. The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research has also backed CVT-301 trials with grant money, a recognition of the therapy's potential to improve treatment.

"As we surveyed the Parkinson's disease landscape, we found CVT-301 to be a particularly compelling opportunity that uniquely addresses a significant unmet need," RA Capital Partner Shah said in a statement. "CVT-301 represents a rare combination of a large commercial opportunity for a severe disease coupled with a highly de-risked, capital efficient development path."

Civitas, based in a former Alkermes facility in Chelsea, MA, recently began a Phase IIb study of CVT-301 to test the safety and efficacy of the experimental treatment in combating the "off" episodes for one month. Initial results of the midstage study are expected in the first half of 2014, and the second-round financing could support the start of a Phase III trial, the company said in its announcement Wednesday.

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