BioPharma, Startups

Alector raises $133 million in Series E round for neurology drug development

Company plans to bring three drugs for FTD and Alzheimer’s into clinic early next year.

Dementia or brain damage and injury as a mental health and neurology medical symbol with a thinking human organ made of crumpled paper torn in pieces as a creative concept for alzheimer disease.

A company seeking to use an approach similar to immuno-oncology for treating neurodegenerative disease has closed its fifth round of private funding.

South San Francisco, California-based Alector said Wednesday that it had raised $133 million in a Series E funding round. The round brought in a large group of participants, including Deerfield Management, AbbVie Ventures, Federated Kaufmann Fund, Section 32, Euclidean Capital, Foresite Capital, Lilly Asia Ventures, New Leaf Venture Partners, Perceptive Advisors, Casdin Capital, Polaris Partners, OrbiMed, MRL Ventures, GV, the Dementia Discovery Fund, Mission Bay Capital, Amgen Ventures and others.  In October, the company received $205 million upfront under a partnership with AbbVie, along with a $20 million equity investment.

The plan is to enter three drug candidates into the early next year, Chief Business Officer Sabah Oney said in a phone interview. These include AL001, being developed for frontotemporal dementia, as well as AL002 and AL003, which respectively target TREM2 and SIGLEC-3 and will be developed for Alzheimer’s disease. AL001 will be the first in the clinic, in a Phase I study that will initially enroll healthy volunteers to determine safe dosing and then enroll asymptomatic patients, said Chief Development Officer Robert King. Patient enrollment will start after the trial enrolls patients into the third dosing cohort of healthy volunteers, he said, adding that patients should not be hard to find despite FTD’s relative rarity because the company is tied into two patient registries. The trials of AL002 and AL003 will follow similar designs, King added.

Unlike most companies developing drugs for Alzheimer’s that target amyloid-beta and tau, Alector’s approach is to target the immune system, based on research indicating that the immune system losing the ability to handle various pathologies happening in parallel in the disease, namely cell death and loss of connection between cells, leading to neuronal death, Oney said. Alector’s drugs, all monoclonal antibodies, are immune checkpoint inhibitors of the brain, though they differ from the checkpoint inhibitors used in oncology in that they leverage the innate immune system, whereas their oncology counterparts leverage the adaptive immune system.

Still, because drugs targeting amyloid-beta and tau rely on a healthy immune system, the two approaches could complement each other, he said. The company also plans to go into oncology and other disease areas, he added.

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