17 Apr Alzheimer's drug developer lands $1.2M in venture funding
Madison, Wis. – Mithridion, Inc., a biopharmaceutical start up that is developing drugs to disrupt the progress of Alzheimer’s disease, has closed an additional $1.2 million of Series A funding led by Madison’s Venture Investors.
The latest round of funding brings the total equity capital raised in the past year to $2.2 million, well above the company’s initial funding target. Mithridion will use the funds to develop drug candidates aimed at stopping or slowing down disease progression of Alzheimer’s, which Venture Investors has identified as an unmet medical need.
In addition to the funding, Venture Investors, which has $190 million under management, will provide executive support. Paul M. Weiss, a managing director of VI, will join Mithridion’s board of directors. Weiss, who was with Venture Investors in the early 1990s, recently returned after building a career in the pharmaceutical industry. He was most recently chief executive of Gala Design in Madison, and also worked at Scientific Protein Labs in Waunakee.
Joining Venture Investors in the latest round is the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and Rosetta Partners, an investment management firm in Lake Forest, Ill.
WARF, Rosetta Partners, and Wisconsin Investment Partners, Madison, participated in an earlier funding round.
Mithridion, based at the University Research Park in Madison, began operations in February of 2006 and employs 11 people.
Trevor Twose, chief executive of Mithridion, said the latest funding round will enhance its drug development capabilities by investing in additional advanced analytical technologies. He also welcomed Venture Investors’ presence on the Mithridion’s board of directors, and the continued support of WARF and Rosetta Partners.
“It’s a great leap forward for our company in getting Venture Investors, a professional investment firm,” Twose said. “It’s not only a leap forward in terms of getting the funding, it’s the quality of the investors they bring in.”
The new funding will be used to advance Mithridion’s drug lead, a prototype drug that will be further developed in a lead drug candidate as the company moves toward human clinical trials. Twose said the company would need to identify a lead drug candidate by the third quarter of this year in order to file an investigational new drug application with the Food and Drug Administration by the fourth quarter of 2008.
Mithridion, a 2005 winner in the Governor’s Business Plan contest, is working to commercialize technology developed at the UW-Madison School of Pharmacy by associate professor Jeffrey A. Johnson and Thor D. Stein, M.D., Ph.D. They are developing a neuroprotective protein that actually slows the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease in animal models, but will need to prove to the FDA its safety and efficacy in human beings. The technology is licensed by WARF.
Mithridion’s goal is to identify a drug candidate based on small-molecule drug leads. These drug leads have the potential to work in vivo (in the living body), activating protective genetic pathways in the brain that might shield neurons from Amyloid beta, the primary toxin in Alzheimer’s.
In order to modify the progression of the disease, an effective drug must block toxicity and pass into the central-nervous system by crossing the “blood-brain barrier.”
John Neis, founding partner of Venture Investors, said the annual sale of Alzheimer’s drugs is $2.3 billion, but while available drugs have benefits for patients, none of them slow the progress of the disease or cure the condition. Mithridion is an attractive investment because its discovery is based on animal models used in Alzheimer’s research. “It was noted that they [the animals] did not develop the full form of Alzheimer’s, which caused investors to ask why?” Neis said.
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