SAN MATEO — CuraSen Therapeutics, Inc., a privately held biotechnology company focused on developing therapies to treat neurodegenerative diseases, has closed a $54.5 million Series A financing. Led by New Leaf Venture Partners, the investor syndicate includes Longitude Capital, funds managed by Tekla Capital Management LLC, Alta Partners, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc. (JJDC), and Pappas Capital.
CuraSen is developing small molecule drugs targeting a novel mechanism in the brain to alleviate disabling symptoms and modify disease pathology in patients who suffer from less common (orphan) neurodegenerative disorders as well as Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. These symptoms include cognition, executive function, and motor and autonomic dysfunction, all of which can severely impact quality of life. More specifically, CuraSen’s drugs are designed to activate certain receptor populations in the brain to compensate for critical neuronal and glial functions that have otherwise been lost due to degeneration. Key research advanced by Mehrdad Shamloo, PhD, has laid the foundation for CuraSen’s programs and is licensed from Stanford University.
In conjunction with the financing, co-founder Anthony Ford, PhD, has been named chief executive officer (CEO) and Kathleen Sereda Glaub, MBA, an industry veteran and co-founder, will serve as executive chair for the company’s Board of Directors. Previously, Dr. Ford was co-founder and chief scientific officer of Afferent Pharmaceuticals, which advanced its lead program to Phase 3 readiness for chronic cough and developed other P2X3 antagonists for other neurogenic disorders. Ms. Glaub previously served as chief executive officer of Afferent, until its acquisition by Merck for $1.25 billion in 2016.
Other Board directors include Dr. Ford, Liam Ratcliffe, MD, PhD, managing director, New Leaf Venture Partners, Patrick Enright, MBA, managing director, Longitude Capital and Henry Skinner, PhD, senior vice president, Tekla Capital Management.
“We have demonstrated in a number of models of Alzheimer’s Disease that restoring certain functionality in the brain results in a profound effect in this disease, including significant improvement in learning and memory with both acute and chronic treatment, significant reductions in amyloid plaque and tau pathology, and a significant reduction in inflammatory gene expression,” said Dr. Shamloo, co-founder of CuraSen.
“There is an urgent need for new drugs targeting Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as less common neurodegenerative conditions. The research of Dr. Shamloo and others, combined with post-mortem pathobiology and epidemiology, provide compelling support for the treatment of neurodegenerative disease by targeting this novel mechanism,” said Anthony Ford, PhD, chief executive officer and co-founder, CuraSen. “This financing allows us to build an industry leading team and company to address a number of these diseases for which no effective treatments are available. CuraSen expects to advance its first program to the clinic by the end of 2019.”