Many companies are working to develop new drugs that target harmful proteins associated with neurodegenerative diseases.
EnClear Therapies has raised a $10 million Series A round of financing from a syndicate of investors to advance a device that it says could help treat neurodegenerative diseases by filtering out such proteins from cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), the clear liquid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. CEO Anthony DesPasqua likens the process to a dialysis-like method that could help slow disease progression.
DePasqua, a medical device industry veteran who most recently led business development for the breast oncology and orthopedics units at Medtronic (NYSE: MDT), told Xconomy that EnClear will use the money to prepare for and begin human tests of its recirculation system in the first half of 2021 in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.
While he wouldn’t divulge much about the device itself, DePasqua did say that the filter is biologically based, and can scale to filter out a wide range of proteins if desired.
The biotech plans to first target a protein called TDP-43 in two subcategories of people with ALS: those with sporadic ALS, as it’s called when the disease occurs spontaneously for unknown reasons, and those with mutations in the C9orf72 gene, DePasqua says. Next the company plans to develop a product for patients with progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare brain disorder that causes deterioration of the cells that help to control movements and thinking.
EnClear’s Series A backers include 20/20 HealthCare Partners, which led the round, Amgen Ventures (a seed investor in ALS-focused startup QurAlis) Peter Thiel, Global Health Sciences Fund (a joint venture of Quark Venture and GF Securities), Christian Angermayer’s Presight Capital, and Dolby Family Ventures.
As part of the Series A deal, 20/20 managing partner Hillel Bachrach, Thiel Capital managing director and Chief Medical Officer Jason Camm, and Quark Venture partner and Chief Scientific Officer Zafrira Avnur join EnClear’s board of directors.
The startup’s approach is one that Quark Venture CEO and partner Karimah Es Sabar says has potential to lead to strategic partnerships in biotech and medtech.
That’s because the device, designed to allow access to the central nervous system, could facilitate the delivery of drugs and monitoring of biomarkers as well as filtration of harmful proteins, DePasqua says.
“As the next generation of therapeutics comes out, like [antisense oligonucleotides] and gene therapies, they all have intrathecal [drug] delivery [systems], they all have different requirements from where they need to go, when they need to go, the amount that needs to get into the body past the blood-brain barrier,” he said. “With access to the central nervous system and CSF, we can help deliver those therapies in a meaningful way, and that’s what we’re testing out and developing strategic partnerships around at this point.”
EnClear, currently a team of three, anticipates adding four more full-time employees this year, DePasqua says. The company, which started out in Cambridge, MA’s Lab Central, recently moved its headquarters north of Boston, to Newburyport.