Nura Bio Inc., a company working to discover and develop new neuroprotective medicines, has closed a $73 million series A financing that President and CEO Alpna Seth said would help her team advance a multitarget pipeline, initially led by an inhibitor of the sterile alpha TIR motif protein 1 inhibitor (SARM1). The Column Group (TCG), which helped found the company with a significant commitment toward the series A, led the round, with new support from Samsara Biocapital and Euclidean Capital.
SARM1 is part of a very fundamental pathway driving axonal degeneration, and "a very central player that could be involved across a multitude of indications, ranging from those affecting central, peripheral and ocular" diseases, Seth told BioWorld. With so many choices in front of it, the team's primary work now is to determine which one might offer the most efficient and effective path to proof of concept in the clinic.
Seth, a veteran of Biogen Inc., took over the company's leadership in August 2019. Most recently, she was chief operating officer for Vir Biotechnology Inc. Having worked for two decades in the field of neuroscience, she said, "I had seen the unmet need – just how massive it is – and the lack of truly neuroprotective drugs, despite a lot of investment in this field," she said.
Prior to Seth, the company was led by TCG managing director Tim Kutzkey and also Michele Libonati, who formerly held leadership roles at Roche Holding AG, Genentech Inc. and Elan Pharmaceuticals Inc. Kutzkey is now chair of Nura Bio’s board. Other directors include Dave Goeddel, a managing partner at TCG; Cory Freedland, a principal at Samsara; Revolution Medicines Inc. President and CEO Mark Goldsmith; Annexon Biosciences Inc.’s chief medical officer, Sanjay Keswani; and Seth.
For now, Nura’s R&D is focused on two approaches: preventing neuronal loss to preserve neurological function and restoring the function of the neuron-glia axis to improve the nervous system's immune surveillance capacity in response to neurological injury.
Initially founded as Neuroprotective Therapeutics Inc., the South San Francisco-based company later became Proneurotech Inc. before changing its name once more in April to Nura Bio. It got its start with TCG and scientific founders Marc Freeman and Steven McKnight, with an early pipeline fueled by breakthroughs elucidating the molecular mechanism underlying Wallerian (axonal) degeneration, an early hallmark of neurological diseases. SARM1 was first discovered as an axon-death factor in Freeman’s lab.
Commercial activity in the SARM1 space so far appears to be minimal, with Cambridge, Mass.-based Disarm Therapeutics Inc. the only other company to have publicly disclosed work to develop medicines targeting the enzyme. Leveraging research from Washington University in St. Louis, the company has been working to advance both small-molecule and gene therapy candidates targeting SARM1 toward the clinic.
Disarm raised $30 million in series A financing in September 2017, led by Atlas Venture, with co-investors Lightstone Ventures and Abbvie Ventures. In January, the company appeared to be readying to raise more, with the hiring of CFO Scott Holmes, who had previously held that role at Kiadis Pharma NV.