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Neuro Therapy Company Spins-Off, Gains $20.8M Funding



8 February 2018. A company developing treatments for cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease is starting-up in Belgium, with a technology and financial backing from local and global businesses and investors. The new company, Syndesi Therapeutics in Louvain-la-Neuve, is a spin-off enterprise from the Brussels-based pharmaceutical company UCB, staked to €17 million ($US 20.8 million) from investors in Belgium and elsewhere in Europe and the U.S.

Syndesi Therapeutics is creating therapies for cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease with, according to the company, a different mechanism than other drugs so far. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative condition affecting growing numbers of older people worldwide. People with Alzheimer’s disease often have deposits of abnormal substances in spaces between brain cells, known as amyloid-beta proteins, as well as misfolded tangles of proteins inside brain cells known as tau.

Syndesi’s approach focuses on the synaptic vesicle protein SV2A, the same target as drugs for epilepsy developed by UCB. Because Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive impairment are not disorders being addressed by UCB, the company is spinning-off Syndesi, and providing an exclusive license to early drug candidates targeting SV2A, but with no anti-epilepsy properties.

SV2A regulates release of neurotransmitters, chemicals in the brain affecting signals among nerve cells, particularly across synapses, the connections between nerve cells. Synaptic vesicles are tiny containers in the synapse holding and releasing neurotransmitters. SV2A provides a binding site for drugs treating epilepsy, like those offered by UCB, but UCB also discovered related small molecule, or low molecular weight, drug candidates targeting SV2A that address synaptic dysfunctions related to cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s. In addition, Syndesi says density of SV2A proteins is an indicator Alzheimer’s progression.

“Development of these small molecules that modulate the SV2A target in a distinct manner,” says Syndesi CEO Jonathan Savidge in a company statement, “represents an intriguing new approach for the treatment of cognitive deficits since they specifically target synaptic dysfunction, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease and other indications characterized by cognitive impairment.”

Syndesi is raising €17 million in its first venture funding round, with the financing led by venture investors Novo Seeds in Copenhagen and Fountain Healthcare Partners in Dublin and New York, both companies specializing in life science start-ups. Taking part in the funding are Johnson & Johnson Innovation, V-BIO Ventures, Walloon Investment Fund, and VIVES Louvain Technology Fund, which invests in spin-offs from l’Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) and start-ups in Belgium and neighboring countries. Proceeds from the financing are expected to support Syndesi through early proof-of-concept clinical trials.

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Disclosure: The author owns shares in Johnson & Johnson.

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