Raising $10M in Series A, Alzheon CEO Bets He Can Beat Biogen With World's First Alzheimer's Drug
April 8, 2015
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
Framingham, Mass.-based Alzheon announced today that it had closed on a $10 million Series A financing round. The round was led by Ally Bridge Group, which was joined by existing and new investors.
The funding will be used to take the company’s lead drug candidate, ALZ-801, a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, toward clinical trials. ALZ-801 is an oral, small molecule, first-in-class compound that inhibits the formation of amyloid, one of the substances believed to cause Alzheimer’s disease.
“With our advanced amyloid-targeting ALZ-801 clinical candidate, we are well-positioned in the dynamic field of drug candidates for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Martin Tolar, founder, president and chief executive of Alzheon in a statement. “The excitement in our company was reflected in the strong interest we have received for our Series A fundraising, which we designed to support our plans to initiate a pivotal study of ALZ-801 in Alzheimer’s disease.”
Only a month ago Massachusetts-based Biogen, Inc. announced the results of a Phase Ib study that evaluated aducanumab as a treatment for mild Alzheimer’s disease. The drug, BIIB037, was shown to reduce amyloid plaque in the brain.
Tolar, however, says he believes Alzheon is “way ahead” of Biogen. Biogen’s announcement led to a 53 percent jump in stock, which didn’t hurt Alzheon. That jump in stock price was a temporary jump, however, with stock currently selling at $418.09 per share, down from the one-day high of $475.98 on March 20.
“We would have never thought,” said Tolar, “when we started this company two years ago in the nuclear winter of Alzheimer’s research, that two years later Biogen would prove the amyloid hypothesis.”
Although the Biogen announcement overshadowed Alzheon’s name for a while, the Series A financing was already in progress, and the Biogen news only inspired investors to jump on board. Noting, however, that Alzheimer’s drug development is a wasteland of failed Phase III clinical trials and disappointing commercial products, Tolar indicates that the drug has been tested in 2,000 people by Canadian company Bellus Health. Although the drug did not prove significant benefit, Tolar claims he knows how to fix it.
The reformulated version lasts longer in the body, which apparently improves efficacy and prevents amyloid plaques from clumping around neurons. Tolar also points out at least two advantages he feels his company has over Biogen. First, Alzheon’s data set is 10 times larger than Biogen’s. The second is that Biogen’s drug, a biologic, requires an injection. “If you have a safe, small-molecule drug, why the hell would you take an antibody?”
The answer to that question, of course, will play out during clinical trials that test the two drugs’ effectiveness.
BioSpace Temperature Poll
After last week's news that Gilead had issued a health advisory to doctors, concern is growing after nine patients taking Harvoni or Sovaldi along with another drug, amiodarone, were treated for abnormally slow heartbeats. One of the patients died of cardiac arrest. Three of the nine patients required a pacemaker. That has BioSpace asking, what next?