Dementia Discovery Fund to Invest $5 Million in Therapy Start-up Cerevance

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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Alzheimer's investment

The Dementia Discovery Fund will pump $5 million in initial financing into Cerevance, a start-up developing new approaches to treating dementia patients, 60 percent of whom have Alzheimer’s disease.

The venture capital fund invests in companies and projects pursuing disease-modifying therapies for dementia.

Cerevance has dual headquarters in Boston and Cambridge, England. It is harnessing a proprietary technology platform that Dr. Nathaniel Heintz developed at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

The platform allows scientists to use human tissue samples, instead of animal models, to analyze human brain cells. The objective is to look at pathways and receptors in cell populations vulnerable to Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Alzheimer’s is a research priority because it accounts for so much dementia. The World Alzheimer Report reports that a person who is 85 years old has a 50 percent chance of developing the disease, and the incidence is increasing.

Cerevance is seeking to answer fundamental questions about the complexity of the central nervous system (CNS). The topics of research it is dealing with cover:

  • Anatomy — Why are there so many CNS cell types? What properties define a cell type?
  • Genetics — Why do mutations in widely expressed genes that affect common biological pathways cause specific disorders? Why can so many genes cause CNS disorders?
  • Therapy — Can scientists develop circuit-specific drugs to treat CNS disorders? Which circuits and cell types are associated with drugs that act on neurotransmitters to achieve specific and beneficial therapeutic effects? Can scientists change mechanisms associated with a disease to delay the disease’s onset or progression?

The company’s overall goal is to learn more about how these nervous-system-related properties contribute to specialized cell functions, CNS circuit modulation, psychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.

“There are 50 million dementia patients worldwide, and 10 million more being diagnosed each year,” Dr. Laurence Barker, the Dementia Discovery Fund’s chief business officer, said in a press release. “With exceptional science, a strong sense of urgency, a leadership team that has previously succeeded together in drug discovery and solid investor support, Cerevance is well positioned to deliver life-changing therapeutics for dementia patients.”