- Areteia Therapeutics, a new biotech startup created by Population Health Partners and Knopp Biosciences, launched on Tuesday with $350 million in venture capital funding.
- The Series A round was led by Bain Capital Life Sciences, which has invested heavily in life sciences and raised $2 billion in new funds last year. Additional investors include GV, Arch Venture Partners, Sanofi and Population Health.
- The cash infusion will fuel development of an oral drug for a type of severe asthma that Areteia says is ready for Phase 3 clinical trials.
Areteia starts life as a biotech company further ahead than most startups, as it’s built around a drug that already has a long history of clinical testing.
In 2010, Biogen licensed the drug, called dexpramipexole, from Knopp Biosciences to study as a potential treatment for ALS. The drug made it to Phase 3 clinical trials but ultimately failed to meet its primary goal, leading Biogen to end development as well as terminate its licensing agreement with Knopp.
Further testing suggested a potential use in asthma, however. Knopp studied the drug in individuals with eosinophilic asthma, a more severe form of the respiratory disease caused by an influx of white blood cells called eosinophils. In Phase 2 clinical study, the drug lowered eosinophil counts versus placebo.
Treatment for this type of asthma does already exist. AstraZeneca’s drug Fasenra was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2017 and effectively lowers white blood cell count in those with eosinophilic asthma.
However, Fasenra is an injection that must be taken chronically. Dexpramipexole is administered orally and was previously tested at several dose strengths twice daily.
“It has become clear that lowering the blood eosinophil count results in important clinical benefits in patients with severe eosinophilic asthma,” said Ian Pavord, a professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Oxford, in a statement from Areteia. “Until now, we have only been able to do this with oral steroids or injected biologic treatments.
Jorge Bartolome, who previously worked at Johnson & Johnson and ran GSK’s respiratory business unit in the U.S., has joined the company as its CEO.
Areteia will advance dexpramipexole into a Phase 3 trial and will also use the funding to “secure commercial supply, and pursue potential next-generation medicines,” according to a statement.
Ian Read, Pfizer’s former CEO and current partner at Population Health, will join Areteia’s board of directors, as will Adam Koppel, managing director of Bain Capital Life Sciences.