NEA backs $14M round for a biotech startup focused on autism disorder

New Enterprise Associates has stepped up to help with a $14 million A round designed to get Austin, TX-based startup Lumos Pharmaceuticals in the clinic with a new therapy for an autism spectrum disorder characterized by severe cognitive impairment. Sante Ventures negotiated the original term sheet for Lumos and NEA joined the financing later.

Lumos has been working with a subsidiary of the NIH on LUM-001, an analogue of creatine that was studied by investigators at the University of Cincinnati. The "repurposed" molecule has been shown in animal studies to cross the blood-brain barrier, offering the potential to restore levels of creatine in the brain, which is eliminated by a defect in the transporter gene found in people who suffer from a range of cognitive disorders, including autism.

According to the university, investigators determined back in the fall of 2012 that creatine transporter deficiency--the second most common form of X-linked retardation after Fragile X--might successfully be treated with cyclocreatine, which had been initially developed as an adjunct cancer therapy.

Lead investigator Joe Clark said at the time that the treatment reversed mental-retardation like symptoms in mice after 9 weeks. "Treated mice exhibited a profound improvement in cognitive abilities," he said in a statement, "including recognition of novel objects, spatial learning and memory."

"We are very grateful for the ongoing collaboration with (staffers at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences), and together with our new financial partners, Lumos is in an excellent position to succeed," says CEO Rick Hawkins. "TRND's dedication and contribution toward the development of therapies for rare diseases is nothing short of astounding."

- here's the press release