Spotlight on Georgia’s biotech industry: Seven companies to know about in 2024

Georgia biotech companies

While Georgia does not count among the biggest U.S. biotech hubs, the state still has a prominent biotech scene. With its ecosystem built around the state’s capital city, Atlanta, Georgia is home to more than 4,000 life sciences organizations. The state also trains students to work in the industry represented by institutions such as the Georgia Institute of Technology or Emory University. Indeed, according to Bio.News, Georgia’s colleges and universities have increased the number of life sciences degrees delivered by 14% in the last five years. In this article, we delve into the Georgia biotech landscape with seven companies to know about in 2024. 

Table of contents

    Altesa BioSciences

    Altesa BioSciences, founded in 2020 and based in College Park, launched with a $35 million series A round. The Georgia company is focused on developing antiviral drugs particularly targeting respiratory viruses.

    The company’s lead candidate, vapendavir, is a broad-spectrum capsid inhibitor that prevents viruses from attaching to cells and also inhibits viral replication. The viral capsid is the protein shell that encases and protects the genetic material of a virus. By targeting the viral capsid, vapendavir can disrupt the life cycle of various enteroviruses, including rhinoviruses, which are major causes of respiratory infections. It is currently in phase 2b clinical trials, targeting patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), who are at high risk of severe complications from rhinoviral infections​​.

    Altesa’s pipeline also includes a preclinical candidate, ALT-2023, a broad-spectrum nucleoside analog licensed from Emory University targeting the hepatitis C virus. This drug inhibits viral replication by incorporating into viral RNA, preventing the virus from effectively replicating its genome. 

    Aruna Bio

    Aruna Bio, founded in 2017 and headquartered in Athens, Georgia, is a biotech company focused on developing neural exosome-based therapeutics for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. The company leverages its proprietary neural exosome platform to create treatments that can cross the blood-brain barrier and enhance the body’s anti-inflammatory, self-repair, and protective mechanisms.

    Neural exosomes are extracellular vesicles derived from neural stem cells. These exosomes can naturally traverse the blood-brain barrier, delivering therapeutic agents directly to the central nervous system. This capability makes them particularly suitable for treating neurodegenerative diseases. 

    AB126, its lead candidate, is currently being developed for acute ischemic stroke and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared an investigational new drug (IND) application for AB126, enabling the initiation of phase 1b/2a clinical trials. Preclinical results have shown that AB126 can prolong survival and reduce inflammation in ALS mouse models​.

    GeoVax Labs

    GeoVax Labs, based in Atlanta, Georgia, is a clinical-stage biotech company dedicated to developing vaccines and immunotherapies for infectious diseases and cancer through its proprietary Modified Vaccinia Ankara-Virus Like Particle (MVA-VLP).

    GeoVax’s proprietary MVA-VLP platform supports the presentation of multiple antigens to the immune system, which can induce both antibody and T-cell responses. This platform is used in the development of vaccines targeting various diseases, including COVID-19, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and Marburg virus. Marburg virus disease is a severe hemorrhagic fever with high fatality rates caused by a pathogen classified under the same category as the Ebola virus.

    Gedeptin is GeoVax’s lead oncology candidate, an oncolytic gene therapy for advanced head and neck cancers. The therapy has recently completed enrollment for its phase 1/2 clinical trial, with results expected soon​​.

    GeoVax is also working on, GEO-CM04S1, a COVID-19 vaccine with a focus on high-risk immunocompromised populations. This candidate is currently in three different phase 2 clinical trials.

    Inhibikase Therapeutics

    Headquartered in Atlanta, Inhibikase Therapeutics is a clinical-stage biotech company focused on developing small-molecule kinase inhibitor therapeutics to modify the course of Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. Inhibikase’s work is based on targeting Abelson tyrosine kinases (c-Abl), which play an important role in neurodegeneration.

    Inhibikase employs its proprietary RAMP (Re-engineering Approach with Metabolism Preserved) drug innovation engine to develop new chemical entities. These entities enhance the potency and brain penetration of kinase inhibitors while maintaining favorable safety profiles. This approach allows for chronic and systemic administration of these therapeutics, making them suitable for the long-term treatment of neurodegenerative diseases​​.

    The Georgia biotech company’s lead candidate for Parkinson’s disease and its related gastrointestinal complications, risvodetinib (IkT-148009) is currently in phase 2 clinical trials. Early results have shown that risvodetinib is well-tolerated and crosses the blood-brain barrier, making it effective in targeting neurodegenerative processes within the brain​​.

    Another candidate in the Inhibikase pipeline, IkT-001Pro, is a prodrug of the cancer therapy imatinib, designed to improve patient experience by reducing on-dosing side effects. A prodrug itself is inactive or less active and requires chemical conversion by metabolic processes in the body to release the active drug, which then exerts its therapeutic effect. This candidate is aimed at treating chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and potentially other conditions like pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).

    Metaclipse Therapeutics

    Metaclipse Therapeutics, founded in 2011 and headquartered in Atlanta specializes in personalized cancer immunotherapies. The Georgia-based biotech company leverages its proprietary Membrex and VaxRex platforms.

    Metaclipse’s Membrex platform involves the creation of personalized vaccines using tumor membrane vesicles derived from a patient’s own tumor, combined with immune-stimulatory molecules. This approach aims to activate the patient’s immune system to target and destroy cancer cells more effectively. The company works on treatment for multiple advanced cancers, including triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and HER2-positive breast cancer. The company’s most advanced programs are currently in phase 1 targeting TNBC and HNSCC.

    In addition to its Membrex platform, Metaclipse leverages its VaxRex technology. This platform utilizes membrane-anchored adjuvants to develop vaccines for infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and influenza. The VaxRex approach enhances the efficacy of vaccines by incorporating natural adjuvants like cytokines, which are attached to virus-like particles (VLPs) to boost the immune response​. The two candidates developed via this platform are expected to enter phase 1 clinical trials this year.

    Moonlight Therapeutics

    The Atlanta biotech was founded in 2017 and is developing treatment for food allergies, its lead candidate being developed to treat peanut allergies

    The company’s proprietary technology, TASIS (Targeted Allergen-Specific Immunotherapy within the Skin), involves the use of a minimally invasive skin patch that delivers allergens directly to the skin’s immune cells via microneedles. This method aims to desensitize individuals with food allergies by introducing allergens in a controlled manner. 

    The Georgia biotech company’s lead candidate, MOON101, has shown promising results in preclinical settings in desensitizing peanut-allergic mice. Moonlight Therapeutics recently received a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and with a first pre-IND meeting with the FDA completed, MOON101 is on track to reach the clinic.

    NeurOp

    The Altanta-based biotech company targets severe pain, stroke, subarachnoid hemorrhage, and treatment-resistant depression by developing small-molecule therapeutics for central nervous system (CNS) disorders.

    NeurOp’s technology focuses on N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) antagonists, specifically targeting the GluN2B subunit. NMDARs are a type of glutamate receptor in the brain important in synaptic plasticity, memory function, and neural communication. The overactivation of NMDARs, especially those containing the GluN2B subunit, can lead to excitotoxicity, a process where excessive calcium influx causes neuronal injury and death. This mechanism is implicated in various neurological conditions, including stroke, traumatic brain injury, and neurodegenerative diseases. 

    Its lead compound, NP10679, is designed to offer neuroprotection in conditions like stroke by acting in low-pH environments typical of ischemic brain tissue​​. NP10679 has received orphan drug designation from the FDA and is currently in a phase 2 clinical trial.

    Georgia, biotech’s serene strength

    While it is not as impressive as notable biotech regions such as San Francisco, or the Biohealth Capital Region, Georgia’s future outlook remains positive. The state’s life sciences sector has seen increased investments from both public and private entities. For instance, university R&D funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and partnerships have surpassed $700 million annually in recent years, with research universities in Georgia spending nearly $1.4 billion on life sciences R&D in 2020 alone.

    Despite the growth, biotech in Georgia faces the same challenges as every other player in the industry currently. One of the primary issues is the volatility in funding, particularly for early-to-mid-stage companies. While venture and private funding have remained relatively stable, follow-on funding and initial public offering (IPO) activities have seen fluctuations, and the global industry is faced with uncertainty.

    Explore other topics: biotech startupFundingUSA

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