Autobahn Therapeutics announced its launch with $76 million in financing to support work on therapies for central nervous system (CNS) disorders, including ABX-002, its lead candidate to treat diseases marked by the loss of myelin, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and adrenomyeloneuropathy.
“We stand well-positioned to advance our pipeline with funding from the highest quality investors and pharmaceutical leaders who share our mission of improving life health for people affected by these conditions,” Kevin Finney, chairman and CEO of Autobahn, said in a press release.
ABX-002 is a thyroid hormone receptor beta agonist that works by binding to thyroid hormone receptors in the brain and mimicking the action of the thyroid hormone, which stimulates the production of mature oligodendrocytes — cells that produce myelin, the protective sheath surrounding nerve axons that is lost in MS.
By increasing the number of oligodendrocytes available, ABX-002 aims to restore communication between nerve cells and to halt or possibly reverse MS progression.
Autobahn’s development of ABX-002 is based on the well-known role of the thyroid hormone for the production of myelin.
The company also leveraged its brain-targeting chemistry platform to minimize side effects of the therapy, which is taken orally in an inactive form. It is designed only be activated in the brain by an enzyme known as fatty-acid amide hydrolase.
“This approach maximizes brain activity and minimizes undesired peripheral effects,” Autobahn states on its website.
ABX-002 is being developed for use in combination with standard-of-care MS immunosuppressive therapies.
“Autobahn is harnessing the regenerative power of the human body to treat both rare and prevalent CNS disorders. We are coupling our deep knowledge of thyroid hormone biology and remyelination with our brain-targeting chemistry platform to restore the brain to a healthier state,” Finney said.
The Series B round of financing was co-led by ARCH Venture Partners and Cowen Healthcare Investments. Other investors included BVF Partners L.P., Biogen, Bristol Myers Squibb, Pfizer Ventures, Invus, Section 32, Samsara BioCapital, and Alexandria Venture Investments.
“Autobahn is developing a differentiated portfolio of CNS therapies, backed by validated science and led by proven scientific and business leaders,” said Tim Anderson, managing director of Cowen Healthcare Investments. “We are excited to join the Autobahn team to help develop products that can fundamentally change the way people with CNS disorders are treated.”
The company is based in San Diego, California. Its approach draws on work pioneered by Tom Scanlan, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at Oregon Health & Science University, and a member of Autobahn’s scientific advisory board.
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