Sention Inc. introduced itself to the biotechnology world at large Tuesday by disclosing a $13 million financing completed last March.
In the past year, Providence, R.I.-based Sention, which is focused on the discovery and development of drugs to treat memory impairment, has moved two of its compounds into the clinic.
“I think the plan was to just keep quiet until we had an approved IND [investigational new drug application],” Randall Carpenter, Sention’s CEO, said, noting that the company was compelled to raise its visibility now in order to “let people know that we were moving forward in this space.”
The company, formerly known as Nemogen, was founded in 1999 by a group of scientists and clinicians at Brown University. It received angel funding of $1.5 million before the $13 million venture capital round, which was led by Boston-based MPM Capital. Burrill & Co., of San Francisco, also invested in the venture capital funding for Sention.
Carpenter said the scientific basis of the company is the identification of certain novel genes that are important in memory consolidation through a molecular biology approach. He said Sention is interested in exploring uses of its compounds in a variety of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and traumatic head injury, as well as age-associated memory impairment. According to Sention, an estimated 80 percent of people older than 30 complain of some memory loss. The company also plans to explore memory impairment in mental retardation and autism.
“We understand learning and memory in mammals, and that helps validate our targets,” he said, noting that the fact that Sention put two compounds in the clinic in less than a year “speaks to the viability of our platform.”
Its lead compound is C105, a drug designed to enhance the genetic pathways that underlie the storage of memory although Carpenter chose not to reveal specifics on the drug. However, the science foundation allows Sention to understand the mechanisms of memory consolidation, i.e., what the gating reactions are and where memory is stored in the brain. It has completed Phase I trials and is planning Phase II trials. Sention also is preparing to file a CTX the UK equivalent of an IND for this compound.
The plan is for the money to take the company through proof of principle or efficacy in humans, including through Phase II trials, and possibly allowing it to enter Phase III trials, Carpenter said.
The second compound is SN104, which has the same mechanism of action as C105 and could be used to treat memory impairment in a variety of indications. Sention has completed a Phase I trial in the UK with this compound, and plans to enter Phase II. No IND has been filed in the United States.
Carpenter is confident that Sention’s two compounds now in the clinic offer great potential in what he called “a fairly competitive field.”
“We’ve screened a huge number of compounds, and these are by far the best candidates,” he said.
Sention also expects to use the funding to double the number of its existing 21 employees over the next year in the clinical operations and regulatory areas.