Alto Neuroscience bags $25M for four Phase II drugs
Another $25 million is flowing the way of a California biotech attempting to fix the “trial and error” system in neuroscience drug R&D.
Alto Neuroscience picked up the capital from Alpha Wave Ventures via an extension to its Series B, bringing total equity raised to $100 million since the startup’s 2019 founding. The biotech also recently signed up for a $35 million credit facility.
All that capital will help the biotech investigate four drugs through four Phase II readouts, Alto said Monday morning. That means enough money to keep the lights on into 2025, a year longer than projected under the original Series B close.
Co-founding CEO Amit Etkin told Endpoints News the funding will also support Phase I studies this year to get a better understanding of how the biotech’s drug candidates work, what doses to bring forward and which indications to test them in across more Phase II studies in the next two years.
The approximately 50-employee startup hopes to move past the “trial and error” approach of neuroscience drug development, perhaps most recognizable by the lengths patients have to go through to find the depression meds that actually work for them.
To do so, Alto is pairing a trove of data on EEG activity, genetics, behavioral task measurements and other factors to see which of its drugs fits best with patients who have depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions. The company’s artificial intelligence platform homes in on three buckets: cognition, emotion and sleep.
Earlier this month, the biotech touted open-label Phase IIa results for its lead depression asset, ALTO-100, which were statistically significant as both a single therapy and adjunctive.
The goal is to get at least one of its drugs into Phase III, which would likely require another capital infusion, the CEO said.
“We are encouraged by their unique approach backed by over a decade of human data exploring brain mechanisms and patient heterogeneity,” Alpha Wave managing director Chris Dimitropoulos, who’s joining the Alto board, said in a statement. “The recent positive clinical results in depression provide confidence that a precision approach in this field is achievable and likely to drive better outcomes for patients.”
The leadership team includes Etkin, the CEO and a Stanford professor; co-founder and chief strategy officer Dan Segal (former executive of neuroscience company Total Brain); CMO Adam Savitz (after 10 years at Janssen); co-founder and data science chief Wei Wu; CFO Nick Smith and COO Mikael Eliasson.
Etkin said the biotech works directly with clinical trial sites and doesn’t use contract research organizations so it can keep costs down. The company will announce another person to its leadership team soon, he said.