Aspen Reels in $147.5M to Advance Personalized Parkinson's Therapy


San Diego-based Aspen Neuroscience closed on a Series B funding round of $147.5 million. The new funds will be leveraged to propel the company's pipeline of personalized cell replacements for the treatment of Parkinson's disease.

The round was co-led by GV (formerly Google Ventures), LYFE Capital and Revelation Partners. Additional new investors included Newton Investment Management, Singapore-based EDBI, LifeForce Capital, Medical Excellence Capital Partners, Mirae Asset Capital, NS Investment and others.

It also included investments from Series A and Seed investors, including OrbiMed, ARCH Venture Partners, Frazier Life Sciences, Section32 and Alexandria Venture Investments. Doug Fisher of Revelation Partners will join Aspen’s board of directors as part of the financing.

Aspen's personalized cell replacements would theoretically eliminate the need for immunosuppressive therapy in Parkinson's disease. Taking a skin biopsy, each patient’s stem cell-derived dopamine neurons will be examined for possible effectiveness using the company’s artificial intelligence-based genomics tools before transplantation.

“As the leader in autologous cell therapy development, Aspen Neuroscience is preparing to study its first cell replacement candidate in Parkinson’s disease,” said Damien McDevitt, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer. “This company was founded by a visionary team of scientists and patient advocates, who envisioned a day when personalized cell replacement could be used to target neurodegenerative diseases. We are happy to be aligned with such a prestigious group of founders and investors, having raised more than $220 million since the company’s funding, towards our mission to develop transformational medicines for patients with limited treatment options.”

On April 12, the company launched the first patient screening study, the Trial-Ready Cohort Study. It is a preliminary step ahead of filing an Investigational New Drug (IND) application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for ANPD001 for idiopathic Parkinson’s disease. 

The Trial-Ready Cohort Study will generate data and screen possible patient candidates for the drug's Phase I/IIa trial. The screening will take place at multiple locations in the U.S.

“This is an historic moment for patients and for the Aspen Neuroscience team, as we open our first screening study to expedite our investigation of iPSC-derived cell replacement therapies for Parkinson’s disease,” McDevitt said. “We are excited and very humbled to begin this next phase during Parkinson’s Awareness Month. This is a significant step forward for the patient community, for health care providers and the neuroscience field.”

ANPD001 is an autologous neuron replacement therapy. Another pipeline product is ANPD002, a gene-corrected autologous neuron replacement therapy for genetic variants that increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

The company was founded in 2018 by researchers from Dr. Jeanne Loring’s laboratory at The Scripps Research Institute and a group of patient advocates from Summit for Stem Cell. Loring focuses on stem cell research, and her work developed methods for the differentiation of autologous induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) into dopaminergic neurons. Co-founder of Aspen, she is a Special Advisor to the company's Research & Development committee.

McDevitt was chief executive officer of Akcea Therapeutics prior to joining Aspen. The company's chief medical officer is Dr. Edward Wirth, M.D., Ph.D., formerly chief medical officer at Lineage Cell Therapeutics, which acquired Asterias in March 2019.

Andres Bratt-Leal, Ph.D., is co-founder and senior vice president of research and development. He was a post-doctoral fellow in Loring’s laboratory and served as senior science advisor and director of research and development at Summit for Stem Cell Foundation. The company’s chief scientific officer is Xiaokui Zhang, Ph.D., formerly executive vice president and chief scientific officer at Celularity.

Aspen's Series A round was completed in April 2020 and totaled $70 million. It was led by OrbiMed with participation from ARCH Venture Partners, Frazier Healthcare Partners, Domain Associates, Section 32, and Sam Altman.

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