For the past 8 years or so Bruce Bean and Clifford Woolf at Harvard and Boston Children’s have been laboring in the lab to demonstrate how you could inhibit pain and itch signaling in a targeted set of neurons. And now a VC syndicate has assembled a team to take it into the clinic to see how it can perform among humans, handing them a $27 million launch round.
“We run a little virtual,” Nocion Therapeutics CEO Richard Batycky tells me. Right now that means 5 people on the full-time team, with plans to grow eventually to a lean-and-mean 15.
A scientist with some deep experience in respiratory R&D, Batycky was one of the leaders at Alkermes spinoff Civitas, which was snapped up by Acorda for $525 million. He left Acorda last August to jump onto the Nocion team, which was exploring how sensory neurons respond to “noxious stimuli.” And he’s keenly aware of the respiratory implications of their work.
The key to the scientific work was the founders’ ability to develop sodium channel inhibitors — nocions — that could be positively charged to slip through large pores opened by pain and inflammation into their target neurons.
“We can use the large pore channels opened up by painful stimuli or inflammatory mediators as Trojan horses to deliver drug molecules into the cells and stop their electrical activity,” says Bean. “The large pore channels instigate the firing of the cells, but they can also be used to quench it.”
Cough, itch, pain and inflammation are all on the radar. And the pathway also leads to asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and more.
The Series A was led by Canaan and F-Prime, with additional cash from Partners Innovation Fund and BioInnovation Capital.
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