Alzheimer’s Company Cortexyme Closes $76 Million Series B Financing Round with Pfizer, Takeda and Google Participating

Pile of money

South San Francisco-based Cortexyme closed on a $76 million Series B financing round. New investors included Sequoia Capital, Vulcan Capital, Verily Life Sciences (a Google/Alphabet company), EPIQ Capital Group, RSL Investments, Huizenga Capital, and one of the largest long-term mutual funds in the world. The company’s current investors also participated, including Pfizer, Takeda, Ventures, Lamond Family, Breakout Ventures, and Dolby Family Ventures.

In addition to the financing, the company reported it had completed a placebo-controlled single ascending dose trial and multiple ascending dose trial in healthy patients of COR388, the company’s lead compound to treat Alzheimer’s disease. The drug is a first-in-class, oral bacterial protease inhibitor that targets a specific pathogen discovered in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s. It was originally discovered by the company’s co-founder and chief scientific officer, Stephen Dominy.

The company has engineered the compound to inhibit the pathogen in ways that a broad spectrum antibiotic can’t. It has the potential to rescue neurons from bacterial toxicity, which might prevent more cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients.

“Alzheimer’s has been a major medical and societal challenge for decades, and new approaches are clearly needed,” said Michael Dixon partner at Sequoia Capital, in a statement. “Cortexyme is approaching an old problem in a whole new way—moving upstream to target an underlying driver of disease. Sequoia is pleased to partner with the Cortexyme team as they move through Phase I clinical development and rapidly plan for later-stage trials to address conditions that affect millions of patients worldwide.”

Cortexyme began its existence in Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS accelerator facility in the Bay Area. Its successful completion of animal studies and a Phase I safety study in older healthy individuals lays the groundwork for a Phase II human clinical trial.

The predominant approach to Alzheimer’s drugs is focused on beta-amyloid, a protein plaque that accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Although still the leading theory, study after study has failed in Phase II and Phase III trials, typically for lack of efficacy. It has cast doubt on the beta-amyloid theory, at least among investors if not necessarily in the minds of scientists.

As recently as May 18, Johnson & Johnson shuttered a clinical trial of atabecestat, a BACE inhibitor, for Alzheimer’s disease. Instead of issues with efficacy, the program was halted because of safety issues. BACE1 is an enzyme involved in creating beta-amyloid.

Other recent high-profile Alzheimer’s failures include Merck & Co’s verubecestat, Axovant’s intepirdine, Eli Lilly’s solanezumab, Lundbeck’s idalopirdine and many others.

Cortexyme’s approach is different and caught the attention of a number of marquis investors. Casey Lynch, Cortexyme’s co-founder and chief executive officer stated, “Cortexyme is glad to count among its supporters some of the world’s most successful investors in innovation, both in the pharmaceutical industry and beyond. Our streamlined, efficient approach to drug development allowed us to move from seed funding to Phase I data in less than four years. We’re committed to continuing to move swiftly through Phase II proof of efficacy studies in service of bringing new therapies to patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and related conditions.”

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