Amgen Backs Launch of Golden Ticket Winning ALS Company QurAlis
After winning Amgen’s coveted 2017 Golden Ticket in December 2017 startup company QurAlis officially launched with financial backing from Amgen Ventures with a mission to develop a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
Cambridge, Mass.-based QurAlis was started by Kevin Eggan and Clifford Woolf, two Harvard professors and pioneers in the use of stem cells. QurAlis is currently developing therapies for three different forms of ALS with known disease mechanisms which include: a transformative device to remove toxic proteins; a drug that mediates overactive neurons and prevents them from dying; and a drug that restores a dysfunctional waste clearance system in cells. Success with any of these therapies will have a tremendous positive impact on ALS patients and their families, the company said.
Also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is a rare disease that attacks and kills the nerve cells that control voluntary muscles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 12,000 to 15,000 Americans have ALS, with about 5,000 to 6,000 diagnosed annually. The average life expectancy of an ALS patient is approximately three to five years after diagnosis and only 10 percent of patients survive for more than 10 years. Death usually is a result of respiratory failure.
QurAlis said that new insights from genetics and biomarkers show ALS is “not one disease, but a spectrum of disorders with varying underlying mechanisms.” Comparing ALS to cancer, QurAlis said each subtype of the motor neuron disease needs to be treated with precision therapies.
“QurAlis was founded to leverage these emerging insights and new technologies in order to address its mission of curing ALS,” the company said in a statement.
By winning the Amgen Golden Ticket in December QurAlis secured one year of bench space at LabCentral, a first-of-its-kind shared laboratory space designed as a launchpad for high-potential life sciences and biotech startups.
In addition to Amgen, the QurAlis launch was backed by Alexandria Venture Investments and MP Healthcare Venture Management, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation, the company that developed the ALS treatment Radicava. Mitsubishi Tanabe won regulatory approval for Radicava, the first new ALS treatment in 22 years in May 2017. Radicava was approved based on Phase III clinical trials that demonstrated patients taking the drug had a slower decline in physical function than those taking placebo.
In its coming out announcement QurAlis did not disclose how much funding each backer provided.
“The participation of MPH, Amgen and Alexandria is an incredible validation of our strategy and brings us closer to bringing innovative precision medicine to ALS patients,” Kasper Roet, QurAlis cofounder and chief executive officer said in a statement.
John Dunlop, head of neuroscience at Amgen, said the investment in QurAlis aligns with the company’s commitment to advance novel neuroscience research in order to bring needed therapies to patients.
“We are delighted to further support QurAlis’ innovative technologies in their mission to help patients with this extremely debilitating disease,” Dunlop said.