Swiss Biotech Raises €20M to Develop Decoy Drugs in Autoimmune Disease

polyneuron anti mag peripheral neuropathy autoimmune disease nerve

The biotech Polyneuron has raised a Series A round of €20.1M (CHF 22.5M) to start human testing with a treatment for a rare autoimmune disease.

Based in Basel, Polyneuron is developing drugs to treat anti-MAG peripheral neuropathy. This debilitating disease is caused by the immune system producing autoantibodies that attack nerve support cells, which stops peripheral nerves from working properly. There are currently no effective treatments for the condition.

The company aims to treat the disease by injecting patients with synthetic molecules that mimic the targets of the autoantibodies, making the antibodies attack the ‘decoy’ drug instead of the nerve cells. The main advantage of this approach is that the drug could selectively eliminate the autoantibodies without affecting the healthy immune system.

Currently available treatments for autoimmune disorders tend to globally suppress the immune system, which may lead to significant treatment side effects,” Polyneuron’s CEO, Ruben Herrendorff, told me. “This highly specific treatment approach is fundamentally new and could potentially enable treatment options for previously incurable diseases.

polyneuron anti-mag peripheral neuropathy autoimmune disease
Healthy nerve cells (left) have support cells wrapped around them to help conduct electrical impulses. In peripheral neuropathies (right), the support cells are damaged, and the nerve cell doesn’t function properly.

The round will fund the beginning of the first trial in humans of Polyneuron’s treatment, which is scheduled for 2020. The company will also use part of the funding to develop similar drugs for other diseases including multifocal motor neuropathy, another autoimmune disease that causes progressive muscle weakness and wasting.  

Polyneuron’s technology is limited only to autoimmune diseases in which autoantibodies attack carbohydrate molecules. This makes the technology distinct from that of other companies intercepting autoantibodies, such as Apitope, which targets autoimmune diseases based on peptide targets, such as Graves’ Disease. 

The size of the Series A round, co-led by the investors Sofinnova Partners and New Enterprise Associates, beat Polyneuron’s expectations.

The Series A was oversubscribed, so we were able to raise more than anticipated,” Herrendorff told me. “Raising capital in any part of biotech is not easy and takes up a lot of time. As always, there seems to be funding for good, solid companies.

Images from Shutterstock

Explore other topics: Neurological disordersSwitzerland

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