A biotechnology company that has licensed a drug for the treatment of neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in phase 3 development withBiogen Idec (NASDAQ:BIIB) is raising $30 million to develop its product pipeline.
The financing is being done in two tranches of $15 million to help accelerate discovery of next-generation mitochondrial mediators for neurodegenerative disorders and to support near-term clinical development of a novel combination treatment for Parkinson’s disease, according to an emailed statement from Tom Petzinger Jr., executive vice president for business development and public affairs.
Knopp Biosciences, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was started to develop a cure for ALS and is led by CEO Michael Bozik. Life science accelerator LaunchCyte and Dr. Robert Bowser, a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine associate professor of pathology and director of the university’s center for ALS research, co-founded the company.
Since it forged a licensing deal with Biogen in 2010 for its ALS drug dexpramipexole, Knopp has doubled its research and development facilities and increased its staff to 33. In May, it hired Dr. Steven Boyd, formerly of Array BioPharma and Abbott Laboratories, to lead its chemistry team. It also added Ian Reynolds, formerly of Merck and the University of Pittsburgh for its biology team.
The drug, which has been given fast-track approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is currently undergoing clinical trials that include 900 people globally, according to Biogen’s annual report.
As part of its research for developing dexpramipexole, Knopp researchers learned that it protects stressed neurons and other cell types from dying, according to the company’s website. Knopp’s discovery team has found initial evidence of neuroprotection by dexpramipexole with in vitro models of Parkinson’s disease.
Knopp’s biology and medicinal chemistry groups are collaborating to develop next-generation modulators of mitochondrial bioenergetics for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and heart failure.