Therini Raises $17M to Bring Antibody to Myelin-damaging Protein Into Trials
Therini Bio announced raising $17 million in a financing round to speed the development of an antibody that might treat people with inflammatory conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), associated with damage to blood vessels.
These funds will also support work aiming to move this antibody, targeting the protein fibrin, into clinical testing next year, and help to advance other diagnostic and therapeutic antibodies in development.
“The round will allow us to begin developing our exciting portfolio of antibodies to treat and diagnose a wider array of clinical indications,” Dan Burgess, president and CEO of Therini, said in a press release.
In MS and other neurological disorders, the blood-brain barrier — the protective membrane that prevents molecules in the blood from entering the brain and spinal cord — becomes more permeable.
This allows proteins like fibrin, important in blood coagulation, to reach the central nervous system. There, it acts in ways that damage the myelin sheath covering nerve fibers, a hallmark of MS.
Previous work by Katerina Akassoglou, PhD, a neurology researcher at the Gladstone Institutes at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), found that fibrin deposits in the brain prevented nervous system repair, and activated microglia — immune cells that reside in the brain — causing chronic inflammation and nerve damage.
Based on this research, Akassoglou — who co-founded Therini Bio, previously named MedaRed — was awarded the Barancik Prize for Innovation in Multiple Sclerosis Research in 2018.
With evidence pointing to fibrin’s role in MS, the researchers went on to develop an antibody that binds a small portion of the fibrin protein — called a cryptic epitope — that is known to activate immune responses. Importantly, targeting this region was not found to at all diminish fibrin’s role in blood clotting.
A research team at Therini Bio, led by Jeff Stavenhagen, PhD, build on the seminal work of Akassoglou’s lab to optimize an antibody against this region, one appropriate for use in clinical trials.
“The upsized financing validates the progress made by Therini’s research team and reveals the significant excitement that exists around the breadth and depth of the science behind this new biological approach to inflammation,” Burgess said.
This round of financing was co-led by SV Health Investors’ Impact Medicine Fund, MRL Ventures, and Sanofi Ventures. Additional investors included the Dementia Discovery Fund and Dolby Family Ventures, as well as the Foundation for a Better World.