AstronauTx blasts off with $61m for Alzheimer’s drug development

Big pharma backs British biotech targeting Alzheimer’s with novel drugs designed to correct the disrupted physiology of the brain.

UK-based biotech startup AstronauTx has closed a Series A financing round, securing $61 million in funding for the development of innovative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. The company is working on the creation of novel drugs aimed at correcting the disrupted physiology of the brain, particularly by enhancing the supportive functions of astrocytes, the brain’s most abundant cell type.

The company says that the funds will help advance its portfolio of small-molecule drugs, supporting a lead candidate to be taken into clinical trials in patients with Alzheimer’s disease with the goal of delivering both symptomatic relief and disease-modifying effects.

AstronauTx hopes to improve the clearance of toxic species from the brain, with the goal of improving memory consolidation, boosting metabolism for efficient network function and secreting trophic support for long-term neuronal health. Specific details on the company’s approach are limited, but its web site mentions pathological proteins such as β-amyloid, tau and α-synuclein that accumulate in neurodegenerative diseases.

“We now know that the processes causing Alzheimer’s and other similar diseases are modifiable,” said Dr Ruth McKernan, co-founder of AstronauTx. “Progress towards a compendium of new drugs against these devastating diseases is thankfully well underway. Our treatments will be oral drugs, applicable across multiple neurodegenerative conditions, and additive with mechanisms that are currently in late-stage development.”

The round was led by the Novartis Venture Fund, the investment arm of pharma giant Novartis, with participation from Brandon Capital, Bristol Myers Squibb, EQT Life Sciences representing the LSP Dementia Fund, and MPM Capital.

“We are proud to have gathered a stellar international syndicate that aims to develop new therapies for Alzheimer’s Disease,” said Dr Marianne Uteng of the Novartis Venture Fund. “The founders and investors include world experts in neuroscience, and the founder’s discovery is thought to have potential in halting disease progression & improve patients’ quality of life.”

AstronauTx was founded in 2019 by the Dementia Discovery Fund, which is a specialized venture capital fund, managed by SV Health Investors, that invests exclusively in companies developing novel therapeutics for dementia, including Alzheimer’s.

“DDF led the creation of AstronauTx to pursue the development of novel mechanisms to treat Alzheimer’s and the lean team have done a fantastic job building an exciting early stage portfolio,” said Dr Laurence Barker of the Dementia Discovery Fund. “We are thrilled to see their hard work recognised by this leading venture syndicate and raise sufficient capital to advance these novel approaches into patients.”

In July, AstronauTx established a strategic partnership with Danish biotech Saniona to identify new treatments by modulating a unique ion channel target. The company was also granted funding by Innovate UK in September 2023 to support preclinical work on one of its projects.

Photograph: AstronauTx