Medicxi backs siRNA-focused Aldena Therapeutics with $30M
With a $30 million infusion into Aldena Therapeutics by Medicxi, siRNA-based therapies are moving into dermatology.
Aldena, founded in 2021, plans to use its pipeline of six different compounds on skin diseases focusing on atopic dermatitis, vitiligo, alopecia areata and psoriasis. Three of the compounds will be ready for IND filing next year, and two of the lead compounds will initially focus particularly on alopecia areata and atopic dermatitis.
Two of the draws to the company is the way Aldena plans to get its siRNA therapies into the skin: transepidermal delivery, as well as its experienced co-founders and members of its scientific advisory board, Medicxi co-founder and partner Francesco de Rubertis told Endpoints News.
Aldena was co-founded by John Harris, professor at UMass Chan Medical School; Mark Prausnitz, professor at Georgia Tech; and Andrew Tadros. Craig Mello, a Nobel laureate in physiology and medicine, will chair the scientific advisory board.
“We are pairing siRNA with a unique delivery technology that is called STAR particles,” Aldena CEO Thibaud Portal said.
The transepidermal delivery with the STAR particles enables fusion of the siRNA into the skin – and only the skin.
“What we have is tiny, and we’re talking about sub-millimetric ceramic particles, in the form of three-point stars that are suspended in a formulation. You rub that on your skin,” Portal added. “That creates temporary holes through which these hydrophilic siRNA can penetrate … It induces diffusion within the skin, so it goes through the hole, diffuses laterally in the skin, and does not have an affinity for the tissues beyond the skin.”
While there has been prior use of siRNA in dermatology in very rare conditions, the intradermal injection of the product was so unbearable for the patient that the treatments didn’t progress much farther, Portal said.
Now that Aldena has in vivo and ex vivo proof of the concept, the plan is to move the compounds into the clinic late next year, as well as refine the application methodology in clinical trials in the coming months. Portal declined to comment more specifically on the compounds, but said the company is starting with highly validated molecular targets that have already made the news in dermatology.
The longer term plan is to progress new siRNA molecules while fully leveraging the potential of siRNA chemistry, which “enables concomitant targeting of several targets with the same molecule. So we’re basically coming up with a next wave of programs that will be multi-specific in terms of the pharmacology that we will be able to induce,” Portal added.
De Rubertis said siRNA has proved it’s a new class of medicine but has struggled in dermatology for several reasons: siRNA delivery and format. This is the biggest seed deal the investment firm has ever done.
“The two co-founders that we have in Aldena are the two universities that hold patents for both of those technological aspects. The delivery technology that Georgia Tech developed and the proprietary siRNAs that UMass developed,” Rubertis said. “When we saw those things we said OK, we can now bring siRNA into the skin and make the skin the next organ to harness the power of siRNA as a new drug class, so it’s a big vision.”