Vigil Neuroscience hits Wall Street with two ex-Amgen TREM2 agonists
Big Pharma largely abandoned neuroscience over the last several years — but the folks at Vigil Neuroscience believe a renaissance is around the corner, and apparently, so do investors.
The Cambridge, MA-based startup closed a $98 million IPO on Tuesday, pricing 7 million shares at $14, just below an expected $15 to $17 range. Most of that is going toward VGL101, an ex-Amgen TREM2 agonist in Phase I for a rare neurodegenerative disease.
Vigil launched back in December 2020 with $50 million in Series A cash and a couple of TREM2 agonists picked up from Amgen after it joined Big Pharma’s mass exodus from neuroscience. Then back in August, the biotech reeled in another $90 million from VC investors.
“Amgen decided to exit neuro. It was a strategic decision, so it wasn’t anything about these assets,” CEO Ivana Magovčević-Liebisch explained to Endpoints News back in August.
Now the lead candidate, VGL101, is in a Phase I study for an inherited condition called adult-onset leukoencephalopathy with axonal spheroids and pigmented glia (ALSP), which is characterized by changes to certain areas of the brain. Patients with ALSP often experience early symptoms like personality changes or depression, and go on to develop dementia, difficulty walking and tremor, among other symptoms.
Vigil is focused on treating diseases through the microglia, the primary innate immune effector cells of the central nervous system. VGL101 is a monoclonal antibody agonist targeting TREM2, a microglia sensor that mediates responses to environmental signals and maintains homeostasis in the brain.
“Microglia sense signals in the brain, maintain homeostasis, and coordinate signal-specific downstream responses to clear pathogens and cellular debris that can evolve into disease-inducing agents,” Vigil’s S-1/A states.
ALSP is caused by a mutation to the CSF1R gene, which converges downstream with TREM2, Magovčević-Liebisch explained. The scientists believe they can rescue CSF1R function by over-activating TREM2, thus restoring microglia function.
Vigil also has a small molecule TREM2 agonist program from Amgen up its sleeve, which is still in the lead optimization stage, according to the biotech’s website. Researchers plan on selecting a development candidate in the first quarter of this year, initially targeting Alzheimer’s disease, according to the S-1/A.
After the offering, Magovčević-Liebisch now holds around 1.43% of the company’s stock, while Atlas Venture, which co-led the Series A round, has a whopping 18.76% of the pie. Northpond Ventures, which also helped lead the Series A, holds 13.66% of shares, while Amgen has an 11.35% stake.
Vigil’s now trading under the ticker $VIGL.