Enormous Series A to Help Bring Epilepsy Drug to Market

18/02/2019 - 2 minutes

One of the biggest Series A rounds in European biotech, €159M ($180M), has been raised by the Swiss company Arvelle Therapeutics to help commercialize its epilepsy drug.

Formed just this month, Arvelle plans to submit an application for EMA approval for the small molecule drug cenobamate, which it has licensed from the South Korean company SK Biopharmaceuticals. SK has finished phase III development of the drug in adults with partial-onset seizures, and is currently awaiting a marketing approval decision from the FDA.

Epilepsy represents a big market as it’s one of the most common neurological disorders worldwide. While there are many drugs available to reduce seizures, a big proportion of patients don’t respond to drugs, making demand for new ones high.

The mechanism of action of cenobamate still isn’t fully known, but it’s believed to help to dampen the excitability of brain cells, reducing the potential for seizures.

The big Series A, led by the Dutch investment firm Life Sciences Partners, will help to support the licensing deal, with Arvelle paying SK Biopharmaceuticals €88M ($100M) upfront, and up to €380M ($430M) more upon achieving undisclosed development milestones. SK is also to receive royalties for the drug’s sales in Europe.

Arvelle was recently formed by the UK-based biotech Axovant to handle Axovant’s small molecule operations. Axovant will now focus on developing the gene therapies in its pipeline, including for Parkinson’s Disease, and the rare disease GM1 gangliosidosis.

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While being pretty impressive, this is not the biggest Series A round in European biotech so far. The UK company Immunocore raised a whopping €282 ($320M) in its own Series A back in 2015, to fund the development of its cancer immunotherapies. Last year, the German CAR-T company BioNTech raised a Series A of €239M ($270M).


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