E-Scape Bio, the Gladstone Institutes’ spin-off company working to develop therapies for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, announced that it has raised a total of $63 million in Series A financing from investors. The biotech startup is developing small-molecule drugs that target apoE4, a gene thought to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease development.
E-Scape Bio aims to develop drugs that correct the adverse effects of the apolipoprotein E4 (apoE4) gene, based on decades of Alzheimer’s research done at the Gladstone Institutes by E-Scape Bio’s scientific co-founders Yadong Huang, MD, PhD, and Robert Mahley, MD, PhD, both Gladstone senior investigators.
ApoE4 is one form of the gene responsible for producing apolipoprotein E, a naturally occurring protein in the brain that normally helps clear the deposits of amyloid, one of the culprits causing Alzheimer’s disease.
People with the apoE4 form of apolipoprotein E are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and of earlier development of certain symptoms, such as memory loss.
“Alzheimer’s is a complex disease involving multiple factors,” Stephen Freedman, PhD, vice president of corporate liaison and ventures at Gladstone said in a press release. “Our scientists made significant progress by uncovering the important role of apoE4 in neuron loss and cognitive decline. We wanted to translate their findings into therapeutics that could help patients with Alzheimer’s disease, so we developed partnerships with companies that had similar objectives.”
The initial investment of $55 million Series A financing (the first round of venture capital investments in a new company) was from a syndicate of five top-tier venture funds (OrbiMed, Novo Holding A/S, Novartis Venture Fund, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc., and Osage University Partners). Newer investors who brought the total to $63 million include Lilly Asia Ventures and Sutter Hill Ventures.
“Our researchers invented a molecular tool to reduce harmful effects of apoE4 in the brain,” said Gladstone President R. Sanders Williams, MD, who serves on E-scape’s Board of Directors. “This company was founded on the strength of decades of basic research at Gladstone, and now we are proud to be associated with an exciting new company that can bring this science to the service of patients who truly need it.”
Leon Chen, Ph.D., interim CEO of E-Scape Bio, added: “The drug we are developing could help the millions of Americans afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease, and for whom there are currently no effective treatments. Backed by human genetics and strong mechanistic underpinnings, this target and project are extremely promising, and we are excited to pursue this endeavor.”