A Seattle-based drug/device company with its own particular approach for getting drugs delivered into the brain through the nose has put together a top-notch syndicate that’s delivered $67.5 million in Series D cash.
KKR and Norwest Venture Partners led the round for Impel, with Vivo Capital, 5AM Ventures and venBio Partners jumping in. Ali Satvat, who heads up KKR’s new $1.5 billion healthcare fund, is jumping on the board.
Impel is using their tech to deliver a nasal dose of old and thoroughly understood drugs. In anti-agitation their therapy is a nasal blast of olanzapine. Their most advanced study uses DHE for migraine. There’s levodopa for Parkinson’s and an NIH-allied program is testing intranasal insulin for Alzheimer’s.
The big idea at Impel is that an enhanced nasal delivery approach can improve a drug’s performance, offering an opening for an improved therapeutic effect with a liquid or dry formulation of an old drug. And it’s harder than it sounds, with plenty of inhaled failures along the way at various biotechs that have tried variations on the approach.
Co-founder John Hoekman out of the University of Washington came up with the key tech that makes Impel stand out, says CEO Jon Congleton, a Teva vet and experienced biotech exec who’s seen plenty of ups and downs along the way. After observing that basic nasal delivery tech hadn’t really changed in years, Hoekman came up with an HFA-fueled approach to drag the drug deeper into the nasal cavity.
The CEO credits that approach with differentiating their work in CNS.
“If patients can get a result they can trust and depend on they will be massively compliant,” says Congleton. And the FDA’s CDER has been flexible in determining just how much clinical work will be needed to provide the data needed for an OK on each.
The 45 staffers have plenty of need for the cash, which should get them into 2020. INP104 is in a Phase III trial for acute migraine headache; INP103 is in a Phase II trial for the reversal of OFF episodes in Parkinson’s disease and INP105 is in a Phase I trial for acute agitation in bipolar I and schizophrenia disorders.
“We’ll grow,” says Congleton about the raise. “But we’re not going to go crazy.”
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