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GliaCure raises $5.8 million for Alzheimer’s drug that treats the glial cells

Boston-based GliaCure is taking a slightly different approach to treating Alzheimer’s disease – instead of targeting the neurons, its drug compound focuses on glial cells – a cell type that’s generally overlooked in drug development. It has raised a $5.8 million oversubscribed Series B round, exceeding its initial goal of $5 million. The funding comes […]

Boston-based GliaCure is taking a slightly different approach to treating Alzheimer’s disease – instead of targeting the neurons, its drug compound focuses on glial cells – a cell type that’s generally overlooked in drug development.

It has raised a $5.8 million oversubscribed Series B round, exceeding its initial goal of $5 million. The funding comes from a network of private investors and high net worth individuals. The company, founded in 2011, closed its $2.75 million Series A in 2012.

The company’s lead product, GC021109, is a small molecule drug that works in two ways – it stimulates phagocytosis and reduces pro-inflammatory cytokines.

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It’s slated to enter clinical trials for its Alzheimer’s target in the third quarter of this year. The company is finding that the phagocytic and anti-inflammatory properties of the drug could help treat other conditions, including psoriasis, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and glaucoma.

GliaCure has licensed this lead compound exclusively from Tufts University; however, it has several other programs under development. For instance, it has a therapeutic line with astrocytic targets related to sleep disorders and depression, the company said.

The company is led by Philip Haydon, the chair of neuroscience at Tufts University. GliaCure’s site outlines the case for choosing glial cells as a target quite nicely:

The brain is composed of two cell types: the much-studied and electrically active neurons and glia, a second cell type that is electrically inactive. For many years work in the neurosciences focused exclusively on neurons; glia were left largely unstudied until a seminal discovery made by Philip Haydon in the early 1990’s. This work, demonstrating that glia are active signaling components of the brain, was published in the journal Nature in 1994.

For the past 19 years, Philip Haydon’s laboratory has focused on the study of glia with a goal of understanding the importance of these cell types in the control of brain function in health and disease. From this a range of disease areas has been identified as having potential for new therapy development. These disorders include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, Down’s syndrome, glioblastoma, pain and neuropathic pain, epilepsy, and such debilitating and widespread psychiatric disorders as depression, schizophrenia and disorders of sleep.

Exciting new research in Philip Haydon’s laboratory at Tufts University School of Medicine has identified a novel target for the development of therapeutics for the treatment of Alzheimer’s. This target is known to stimulate phagocytosis by glia. Target activation reduces amyloid plaque burden, restores plasticity in the brain and restores learning and memory.