Mer­ck buys a fledg­ling neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive biotech spawned by an old GSK dis­cov­ery al­liance. What’s up with that?

Aval­on Ven­tures chief Jay Lichter has a well-known yen for drug de­vel­op­ment pro­grams picked up in acad­e­mia. And what he found in Haox­ing Xu’s lab at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan pricked his in­ter­est enough to launch one of his um­brel­la biotechs in San Diego.

Xu’s work laid the foun­da­tion for Aval­on to launch Cal­por­ta, which has been work­ing on find­ing small mol­e­cule ag­o­nists of TRPML1 (tran­sient re­cep­tor po­ten­tial cation chan­nel, mu­col­ipin sub­fam­i­ly, mem­ber 1) for lyso­so­mal stor­age dis­or­ders. And that path­way, they be­lieve, points to new ap­proach­es on ma­jor mar­ket neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases like Parkin­son’s, ALS and Alzheimer’s.

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