Led by Former Genentech Execs, Denali Banks $130 Million, Initiates Trial and Announces a Handful of Partnerships

Published: Aug 26, 2016

Led by Former Genentech Execs, Denali Banks $130 Million, Initiates Trial and Announces a Handful of Partnerships August 25, 2016
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

South San Francisco - Denali Therapeutics announced a broad range of news today, including the start of a Phase I trial in Alzheimer’s disease, a number of collaborations and licensing deals, and a $130 million Series B financing round.

Denali was founded in 2015 by three former Genentech executives. Its focus is on the development of drugs to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS and others. At its founding, the company raised $217 million in venture capital.

The founders were Ryan Watts, Alex Schuth, and Marc Tessier-Lavigne, the new president of Stanford University. Watts is Denali’s president and chief executive officer. He was previously the director of Genentech’s Department of Neuroscience.

Schuth is the company’s chief operating officer and head of Corporate Development. He was previously the director and head of Technology and Diagnostics Partnering at Genentech, and prior to that, head of Neuroscience Partnering.

Tessier-Lavigne is on the company’s board of directors. He was formerly the president of The Rockefeller University in New York City, where he was also Carson Family Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Brain Development and Repair. He will become the president of Stanford University in September 2016.

Denali announced today that it had raised an additional $130 million. All of the company’s founding investors participated in the Series B round, which was led by Baillie Gifford, a UK-based mutual fund. Former investors include ARCH Venture Partners, the State of Alaska’s Permanent Fund, Flagship Ventures and Fidelity Biosciences.

“Having expanded the pipeline over the past year, entering the clinic—the capital need is increasing,” Steve Krognes, Denali’s chief financial officer and former Genentech CFO told the San Francisco Business Times. “That really prompted the Series B.”

Much of the funding will be used to initiate a Phase I trial in Europe for a RIP1 inhibitor, which is involved in inflammatory signaling, and is believed to affect glial dysfunction in the brain. The company hopes data will be developed that can help it design future trials in patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) and Alzheimer’s.

“Mounting genetic evidence points to glial dysfunction as an accelerator of neurodegeneration, and we believe that advancing our RIP1 inhibitor into human clinical testing is a significant step in bringing forward a novel mechanism to combat ALS and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Carole Ho, Denali’s chief medical officer.

In addition, Denali announced a number of deals and partnerships, including:

• It bought San Diego-based Incro Pharmaceuticals, which included its RIP1 inhibitor program.

• Denali inked a license agreement with Genentech for global rights to LRRK2 inhibitors to treat Parkinson’s disease.

• The company signed a research collaboration and license agreement with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis to develop and commercialize antibodies that target ApoE, a protein identified as a risk factor in Alzheimer’s disease.

• Denali made a collaboration and option deal with UK-based F-star to develop a technology platform to deliver drugs across the blood-brain barrier.

• The company inked a collaboration and option deal with Blaze Bioscience to identify and research novel blood-brain barrier therapeutics at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

“We are excited to work with world-class corporations and academic institutions to explore and develop the most promising approaches,” said Schuth in a statement. “Partnerships are central to Denali’s strategy and we continue to seek collaborations to discover and develop effective medicines for patients.”

Also, Denali indicates it has several other partnerships and collaborations with the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI), Aptuit, Evotec, Massachusetts General Hospital, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, PatientsLikeMe and the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

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