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Neuroscience Is Taking the Spotlight at Xconomy’s Bay Area Xchange

Xconomy San Francisco — 

These are heady times for neuroscience research. Startups developing new approaches to brain disorders are raising money to advance their discoveries toward clinical trials. One failed neuro drug is getting another shot.

On Nov. 19 in San Francisco, we’ll hold the latest in our Xchange event series. What’s Next in Neuroscience Therapies will take a look at new technologies that are changing how we understand brain diseases and spinal injuries, as well as novel approaches that companies are taking to treat these conditions. One such company, Alector (NASDAQ: ALEC), aims to treat neurodegeneration as an immune system problem. The South San Francisco biotech is developing antibody therapies that bolster immune cells that help the brain clear away proteins and debris associated with neurodegenerative disorders.

Earlier this year, Alector completed a $176 million IPO. The company is now deploying that cash in clinical trials: a drug candidate for frontotemporal dementia and two experimental therapies for Alzheimer’s disease. Stephanie Yonker, the company’s vice president of legal, will talk about her company’s approach to neurodegeneration at the upcoming event.

BlackThorn Therapeutics is deploying technologies such as artificial intelligence and brain imaging to help it discover new drugs and enroll the clinical trials to test them. The San Francisco company’s focus is neurobehavioral disease. BlackThorn quietly emerged four years ago based on research from the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego. At our forum, Jane Tiller, BlackThorn’s chief medical officer, and Kristina Burow of ARCH Venture Partners will tell BlackThorn’s story from its Scripps origins to the present day as a clinical-stage company backed by $130 million in financing. BlackThorn has completed Phase 1 tests of it lead drug in depression and is preparing for Phase 2; an experimental autism spectrum disorder drug is being readied to start tests in humans next year.

Spinal cord injury continues to pose obstacles to treatment. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is pursuing new therapies through grants awarded to universities and companies. Much of this research aims to develop ways to use stem cells to heal the injury. Abla Creasey, CIRM’s vice president of therapeutics and strategic infrastructure, will discuss these efforts. Meanwhile, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is raising a venture philanthropy fund to support new research. Ethan Perlstein, the Reeve Foundation’s chief scientific officer, will talk about the foundation’s efforts to find new treatments and potential cures for spinal cord injury.

If you’d like to hear more about these new efforts to treat brain disorders and spinal cord injury, join us at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco for What’s Next in Neuroscience Therapies. You can see the agenda for the event here. Additional information, including registration details, are here. We hope to see you on Nov. 19.

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