Seattle Startup Chases Alzheimer's with $23 Million Series A

Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer’s is the white whale of the pharmaceutical world. This week a new Captain Ahab came on the scene with some new tools for hunting down an old target. 

Seattle-based AltPep Corporation raised $23.15 million in a Series A financing round to take their breakthrough amyloid targeting platform to development. Based on technology developed at a University of Washington (UW) lab, the biotech has three targets: early diagnostic for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), anti-biofilm therapies and coatings and disease-modifying therapeutics for AD.  

The company is after an old AD target – amyloid. Amyloid diseases affect over a billion people worldwide. As lifespans increase, so do their occurrences, taking the levels to near epidemic proportions. Over 50 known human diseases are due to the amyloid protein misfolding, causing fibrils and plaques to build up, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Type-2 diabetes, some drug-resistant bacterial infections and more.  

AltPep is working with a new, nonstandard protein structure they discovered called α-sheet. In UW’s computer simulations, it showed to be associated with toxicity of amyloid proteins. AltPep’s technology designed de novo nontoxic α-sheet peptides to be complementary to the α-sheet structure in toxic species. This created a platform targeting toxic species to allow for both early diagnostics and disease-modifying therapeutics.  

“This funding will allow us to build upon our promising preliminary data demonstrating detection of Alzheimer’s disease at its earliest stages and further our preclinical therapeutic program,” Valerie Daggett, AltPep founder and CEO, said in a statement. 

Ramping up last February, the biotech’s work came to a near halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The lab space at UW was too small for social distancing, allowing only one person at a time to work. AltPep is now prepping a 7,500-square-foot lab in Seattle’s Northlake neighborhood and is eager to begin hiring and get to work.  

 AltPep isn’t the only Seattle startup chasing Alzheimer’s. Athira Pharma went public last year and received a $15 million grant from the National Institute on Aging to support the company’s ACT-AD trial. While AltPep targets amyloid deposits, Athira is after HGF/MET with their small molecules that have proven successful at getting through that tricky blood-brain barrier. Athira is now in later stage clinical development with Phase II/III trials for its lead candidate.

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