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Neurological Biotech Raises $65M in Venture Funds

Brain wiring illustration

Brain wiring illustration (Courtesy, Human Connectome Project and NIH)

10 May 2016. A biotechnology company designing treatments for neurological disorders caused by rigidity in nerve cell synapses, is raising $65 million in its first venture funding round. Aptinyx Inc. in Evanston, Illinois, is a spin-off enterprise that formed when Naurex Inc., another biotech company, was acquired by drug maker Allergan plc in September 2015.

Aptinyx develops treatments for neurological disorders that result from the lack of plasticity in synapses, the part of neurons, or nerve cells, that pass signals with neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain and nervous system. The company’s technology focuses on a particular set of pathways known as N-Methyl-D-aspartate, or NMDA, receptor molecules found in synapses. NMDA receptors help keep synapses flexible, which affects memory, learning, and development of the central nervous system. Aptinyx expects to use this platform to discover small-molecule, or low molecular weight drugs to treat disorders such as depression, neuropathic pain, migraine, traumatic brain injury, and epilepsy.

Naurex, the company acquired by Allergan, is itself a spin-off from Northwestern University. Joseph Moskal, a biomedical engineering professor at Northwestern University and director of the school’s Falk Center for Molecular Therapeutics, founded Naurex in 2006. The company was commercializing research from Moskal’s lab on new types of anti-depressants, with one candidate also showing promise for treating neuropathic pain, schizophrenia, and autism.

When Allergan acquired Naurex in September 2015, as reported in Science & Enterprise, Aptinyx was created to continue developing Moskal’s research with NMDA receptors. Moskal stays on as Aptinyx’s chief scientist, along with Naurex holdovers Norbert Reidel who serves as as president and CEO, as well as Torsten Madsen and Ashish Khanna, Aptinyx’s chief medical and business officers respectively.

Aptinyx says it discovered a small-molecule treatment candidate for stimulating NMDA receptors that is ready for submission to FDA for clinical trials, which it plans to begin later this year. “The proceeds from this financing will fuel our discovery engine,” says Reidel in a company statement, “and allow us to conduct multiple clinical studies to evaluate the therapeutic properties of our promising compounds.”

The financing round was led by health care an life sciences venture firm New Leaf Venture Partners, with participation by new investors Frazier Healthcare Partners, Longitude Capital, and Osage University Partners. The funding round also includes Aptinyx’s earlier investors Adams Street Partners, LVP Life Science Ventures, PathoCapital, Goudy Park Capital, Beecken Petty O’Keefe & Company, and Northwestern University.

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