Endorsed by AbbVie, and under the leadership of Genentech veteran Arnon Rosenthal, San Francisco-based biotech Alector has charted a path toward a $150 million IPO, as it develops a crop of drugs designed to weaponize the immune system to fight neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s where recent R&D has focused — largely in vain — on eliminating toxic proteins such as amyloid beta.
Alector has based its pipeline on the scientific theory that neurodegeneration and dementia are caused by dysfunction of the immune system, and its arsenal of antibodies-in-development are designed to either accelerate the immune system or selectively remove the brakes that are in place.
The biotech is one of the few that are seeking to to move past the amyloid beta or tau hypotheses — a field littered with high profile failures. By concentrating on narrower, genetically focused targets, the company hopes it can carve itself a niche space by developing monotherapies, while others tinker with the potential of cocktails to hit their targets from multiple sides.
Since its inception in 2013, Alector has tested 10 programs preclinically, and taken two — AL001 and AL002 — into the clinic for human studies. AL001, for a form of dementia, is expected to enter a Phase Ib study in the first half of 2019 and is expected to be tested in a Phase II study in the first half of 2020. AL002, for Alzheimer’s, is in the midst of a Phase I trial, which was initiated in the second half of 2018. Another Alzheimer’s drug, AL003, along with AL101 (an experimental drug for multiple neurodegenerative disorders), are also expected to be evaluated in Phase I studies this year.
The company is backed by a group of illustrious investors — both biopharmaceutical companies such as AbbVie $ABBV, Amgen $AMGN and Merck $MRK, and institutional investors including Casdin Capital, Deerfield Management, Euclidean Capital, Federated Kaufmann Fund, Foresite Capital, GV, Lilly Asia Ventures, Mission Bay Capital, New Leaf Venture Partners, OrbiMed, Perceptive Advisors, Polaris Partners, Section 32, and the Dementia Discovery Fund.
In 2017, AbbVie forked out a mammoth $205 million in cash upfront to gain access to the company’s platform. By July 2018, the company had raised $420 million, including the AbbVie investment. Its co-founder and CEO Rosenthal, who led teams responsible for the development of the painkiller tanezumab, migraine treatment Ajovy and spent 16 years at Genentech, will work alongside CMO, Robert Paul, who previously served as therapeutic area lead for neuroscience at Genentech.
Image: Arnon Rosenthal. ALECTOR
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