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Avalon, GSK Extend Their Collaboration with Startup Focused on ALS

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the book” on funding from Avalon X, Lichter said. Future investments with GSK will be made from Avalon XI, which Avalon is currently raising from its limited partners.

“We had to have a new agreement with the new fund,” Lichter said. “So we said we like this deal, we want to keep it going, and we sought slightly better terms.”

Iron Horse Therapeutics was founded to advance a promising breakthrough in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, by scientists in Maurizio Pellecchia’s lab at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in San Diego.

Pellecchia, associate director of translational research, has been focused in recent years on identifying potential therapeutic compounds that target certain proteins known as ephrins and their receptors (Eph receptors), which play an important role in tumor growth and cancer cell metastasis.

In a surprising discovery, researchers in Pellecchia’s lab have identified a related protein, EphA4, which appears to promote ALS-related neuro-degeneration. The disease is less severe in ALS patients with reduced production of EphA4, and the patients live longer.

The scientists found that interfering with EphA4 activity appears to protect motor neurons from degeneration, and to decrease the severity of the disease and prolong survival in ALS animal models.

The team also identified small molecules that appear to inhibit EphA4 activity, and the Sanford Burnham Prebys institute licensed the technology exclusively to the Avalon-GSK team behind the formation of Iron Horse Therapeutics.

Founders of Iron Horse Therapeutics take ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Oct. 12, 2015

Founders of Iron Horse Therapeutics take ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Oct. 12, 2015

As a way to mark the beginning of the company, the founders of Iron Horse Therapeutics took the ALS “ice bucket challenge” last month near the company’s new offices in La Jolla. The participants, from left to right, are:

Damien McDevitt, who heads GSK’s West Coast pharmaceutical R&D business development office from the company’s satellite office in La Jolla.

Jay Lichter, Avalon Ventures partner and CEO of COI Pharmaceuticals

Maurizio Pellecchia, associate director of translational research at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

Perry Nisen, CEO of the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

David Campbell, CSO of Iron Horse Therapeutics and CSO for small molecules at COI Pharmaceuticals

Sandy Madigan, SVP for business development at COI Pharmaceuticals

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