UCSF Spinoff, Bay Area’s Neurona Therapeutics, Launches With $23.5 Million Series A Round

UCSF Spinofff, Bay Area's Neuronal Therapeutics, Launches With $23.5 Million Series A Round
December 3, 2015
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

The Bay Area hosts another new biotech startup today, as Neurona Therapeutics launches with a $23.5 million Series A round. So far the company has raised $31.14 million.

Neurona is a spinout of University of California San Francisco (UCSF), and works on stem cell research to treat neurological diseases. Financing was led by The Column Group.

The company is founded by Arturo Alvarez-Buylla, a professor in UCSF’s Department of Neurological Surgery and Principal Investigator in the Brain Tumor Research Center, Arnold Kriegstein, John Bowes Distinguished Professor in Stem Cell and Tissue Biology, John Rubenstein, professor in UCSF’s Department of Psychiatry and Distinguished Professor in Child Psychiatry at the Nina Ireland Laboratory of Developmental Neurobiology, and Cory Nicholas, vice president of research at Neurona Therapeutics and Assistant Professor (Adjunct) in UCSF’s Department of Neurology.

Tim Kutzkey will act as interim chief executive officer. He is a Partner at The Column Group. He will also be on the company’s board of directors.

“Two decades of discoveries in the fields of stem cell biology, cortical brain development, and cell transplantation have revealed the potential for particular types of neurons to repair the nervous system, representing a possible breakthrough therapy for patients with devastating neurological diseases,” said Cory Nicholas in a statement. “Neurona’s talented team is working tirelessly towards making cell-based therapeutics a reality for these patients.”

The company’s work is still in the preclinical stage, apparently, but is focused on growing neuronal stem cells that can be transplanted into the brain. In theory, they could be used to treat a variety of neurological disorders such as epilepsy, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. A differentiating quality to Neurona’s work is that it focuses on stem cells that morph exclusively into interneuronal cells. This makes them less likely become tumor cells.

The Column Group is a venture fund that takes a slightly different approach to biotech startups. It typically uses its money to build its own companies, rather than fund someone else’s company. It was formed in 2007 and has invested in about a dozen companies, including Neurona. Its startups have included Aragon Pharmaceuticals, which sold to Johnson & Johnson Innovation in 2013 for $1 billion in cash and milestone payments. And Aragon had a spinoff, Seragon Pharmaceuticals, which was sold to Roche for $1.72 billion in August of 2014.

Several of Neurona’s board members come from The Column Group, including David Goeddel, Managing Partner at The Column Group, and Tim Kutzkey, who is interim chief executive officer. The board will also include Leo Guthart, founder and senior advisor at Topspin Partners, Arnold Kriegstein and Stephen Hauser, chair of neurology at UCSF.

“We believe there is an unprecedented opportunity to create a novel class of therapeutics with the potential to permanently repair dysfunctional neural circuits,” Kutzkey said in a statement. “We are leveraging the rigorous scientific work and deep knowledge base of Neurona’s founders to develop therapies with distinct advantages over existing approaches.”

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