Aim for the brain: RA Capital bets on Colorado biotech to reformulate epilepsy drug for refractory patients
A decades-old anti-epileptic drug, linked to deformities in unborn children, is being reformulated for injection straight into the brain of patients whose epilepsy has persisted despite therapy.
On Tuesday, the company behind the effort — Aurora, Colorado-based Cerebral Therapeutics — scored $35 million in Series B financing led by RA Capital Management to fund a Phase IIb trial of its drug-device combo.
The product is an implanted, refillable catheter and pump system engineered to deliver a dose of the reformulated version of valproic acid, called CT-010, directly into the cerebrospinal fluid by bypassing the blood-brain barrier. This form of administration is aimed at eliminating the burden of daily pills and limiting the body’s exposure to the drug.
Data from a proof-of-concept Phase Ib/IIa trial in patients with epilepsy who have not derived adequate benefit from oral medications experienced a 50% to 90% reduction in seizure frequency and severity following implantation with the Cerebral drug-device combo, notes the company’s website.
Valproic acid and its derivatives such as sodium valproate were approved in the 1960s and 1970s for use in epilepsy and bipolar disorder. In the United States, AbbVie (formerly Abbott Laboratories) manufactures the drug as Depakote, Depakine and Depacon. In Europe, it is sold as Depakine by Sanofi. Evidence that valproate was associated with neurodevelopmental risks emerged in the latter half of the 20th century.
The latest funding for Cerebral included the participation of new investor Perceptive Advisors, as well as existing investors Vivo Capital and Granite Point Capital Management. The round was led by RA Capital, which is typically hungry for building biotechs but favor the classic “value inflection point” such as an IPO a year or so post their bet. The company has previously raised $11 million in Series A financing.