Company name: Apellis Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Location: Crestwood, Kentucky.
Solution/product: To address chronic inflammatory diseases, starting with severe asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Apellis is developing APL-1, a complement inhibitor that’s intended to break the immunological cycle that prevents the body from removing aggressive immunological phenotypes. By doing so, the company hopes to change the inappropriate behavior of the immune system rather than suppress it, as some classes of asthma drugs do.
Apellis also engages in development of complementary drug-delivery systems and diagnostic tools.
Money raised: Looking to raise up to $3 million and have already secured $693,000 from nine investors, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing. This appears to be the company’s third round of financing.
How it will be used: CEO Dr. Cedric Francois wasn’t available for comment, but the company’s website says its inhaled formulation will be tested clinically in 2012, and a secondary program aimed at protecting red blood cells against immune destruction would also be ready for trials this year.
Investors: HealthCare Ventures is an existing investor.
Management team: Apellis was formed in 2009 when Alcon Research Ltd. licensed the ocular applications of complement inhibitors developed by Potentia Pharmaceuticals. Apellis, which holds the rights to the nonocular uses of these compounds, has the same core management team as Potentia. Francois was a member of the research team that performed the first successful hand transplant and of the transplant team whose work supported the first human face transplantation.
Market size: Research firm Datamonitor postulates that 14 new product launches for COPD will override generic erosion and boost the market value between now and 2020. However, GlobalData holds that the unmet need in asthma therapeutics market is low, so growth of the market will slow.
Competitors: The asthma/COPD market is dominated by GlaxoSmithKline (Advair), AstraZeneca (Symbicort), Merck (Singulair) and Boehringer Ingelheim/Pfizer (Spiriva), some of which have molecules in late-stage clinical development as well. Smaller companies developing therapies for asthma and COPD include SAJE Pharma and Alexion Pharmaceuticals, which has a phase 1 complement inhibitor for inflammatory disorders.
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