E-Scape Unveils $63M for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Drug Research

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease have stymied the efforts of many pharmaceutical companies to develop treatments that stem the decline in brain function. E-Scape Bio is taking a different tack with drugs that it says could address the root cause of degenerative brain disorders.

E-Scape’s approach has caught the eye of investors who have expanded their commitments to a Series A round of funding to $63 million, the South San Francisco, CA, biotech announced Wednesday. The company says the funding will help it develop drug candidates that target the genetic drivers of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Neurodegenerative disorders are thought to be rooted in dysfunctional proteins that have a role in the nervous system, E-Scape says. The company is developing drugs that target Apolipoprotein E4 (ApoE4), a protein that carries cholesterol and has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. E-Scape says that besides old age and family history, the greatest risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s is having certain mutations in the ApoE4 gene. E-Scape’s work is based on research from Gladstone Institutes, a nonprofit biomedical research organization in San Francisco. The company was co-founded by Gladstone scientists Robert Mahley and Yadong Huang.

Previous efforts by pharma to develop drugs targeting a different Alzheimer’s-linked protein, amyloid, have largely failed. E-Scape hopes to find better success by going after the major genetic risk factor for the disease.

“We believe we have a solution for these challenging genetic targets that clearly have a role in the progression of these diseases, and will apply our resources to rapidly build our pipeline and advance towards the clinic,” E-Scape’s interim CEO Leon Chen said in a prepared statement.

The $63 million in funding is not entirely new money. Two years ago, E-Scape raised $20 million out of a targeted $55 million round of financing, according to securities filings. The company’s most recent filing made in June showed that the company’s haul had increased to $46 million in a round now targeting $63 million.

E-Scape’s Wednesday announcement says the initial investment in the company was led by OrbiMed, along with additional investment from Novo Holding A/S, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Novartis Venture Fund, and Osage University Partners. The expanded Series A round included investments from Lilly Asia Ventures and Sutter Hill Ventures.

Image by Flickr user _DJ _ via a Creative Commons license.