The German life sciences investor, Ellersbrook, is putting millions into Evotec‘s drug discovery program. Together the two join a biotech industry hunt for a therapy against a metabolic liver disease (NASH) that affects 30% of adults worldwide.
Ellersbrook is a life science focused investment firm owned by Herbert Stadler, a renowned biotech entrepreneur.
It is now looking to accelerate certain metabolic projects under Evotec’s program through an incubator period, which will then form the basis of either an independently financed spin-off company or a strategic pharma partnership.
The two will jointly invest €5M over a 3 year period into a well-defined Cure X/Target X program (TargetNASH). Specifically, the program looks for novel mechanisms and targets to help tackle Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH).
This kind of business model is quite new for Evotec, whereby Ellersbrook (a VC) will invest into virtual biotech companies at a pre-seed stage. As Cord Dohrmann (Evotec’s CSO) explained, this is probably the most capital-efficient way to progress early-stage projects with a certain degree of flexibility.
NASH is a metabolic-related liver disease with an increasing prevalence in the Western world, particularly linked to cardiovascular complications and diabetes. It is also sometimes referred to as the ‘Silent Epidemic’ by some (there’s a really good review by a blog called NASH Biotechs).
Despite this, there is currently no treatment available for NASH, making it a hot area for biotech to take on. We recently talked to a partner at the Dutch investor Forbion on how NASH was therefore really trending as an indication for the industry.
They explained how at the moment, you still have several biotech companies working on this disease. The two most advanced are Genfit in France (which has a phase III candidate) and Intercept in the US, also in phase III trials.
Big Pharmas are also closely looking at NASH – several even have their own in-house compound (e.g. Gilead, Boehringer-Ingelheim and Novartis).
Evidently, there is a huge demand in place for this disease, and the industry is reflecting this demand with increased funding and programs (including Evotec and Ellersbrook’s).
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