Funding Round Will Boost Efforts to Develop Antibiotic for Alzheimer’s Disease

Cortexyme raises $76 million for efficacy study with candidate that targets bacterial infection in the brain.

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. It is not a normal part of aging, but the majority of people who suffer from it are 65 or older. It is a progressive disease and there is at this time no cure. According to the Alzheimer’s association, 5.7 million Americans currently live with the disease, and it is the 6th leading cause of death in the US.

There are, however, as many as 100 drugs developed to slow or even prevent Alzheimer's disease in clinical trials today, according to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

One company focused on the development of a new Alzheimer’s treatment is Cortexyme. The company recently raised $756 million in series B financing from Sequoia Capital, Vulcan Capital, Alphabet’s Verily Life Sciences, EPIQ Capital Group, RSL Investments, Huizenga Capital and an unnamed mutual fund. 

The interest in Cortexyme is attributed to recent results of an early phase 1 safety study for is lead candidate COR388, a protease inhibitor that targets a bacterial infection in the brain that the company believes causes the degenerative symptoms of the disease. The targeted pathogen was discovered in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients by the startup’s co-founder and chief scientific officer Stephen Dominy. The protease inhibitor works be a mechanism of action different from that of broad-spectrum antibiotics.

In the phase 1 study, COR388 was well-tolerated by healthy volunteers aged 20 to 70, in single-ascending and multiple-ascending doses compared to placebo and exhibited favorable pharmacokinetics and tissue distribution when administered orally. A Phase 2 trial is planned for 2019 to establish the efficacy of COR388.

It is interesting to note that other pharma companies are exiting the Alzheimer’s arena. Pfizer dropped preclinical, early and mid-stage neuroscience research programs, including those in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. It did say at the time it would establish a venture capital fund to support external CNS projects and might license it portfolio of developmental compounds. Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen business stopped clinical trials for its Alzheimer’s candidate atabacestat, a β-secretase 1 (BACE1) inhibitor, due to liver safety issues. Merck canceled its BACE inhibitor trial in 2017 due to lack of efficacy.


Nigel Walker

Mr. Walker is the founder and managing director of That’s Nice LLC, a research-driven marketing agency with 20 years dedicated to life sciences. Nigel harnesses the strategic capabilities of Nice Insight, the research arm of That’s Nice, to help companies communicate science-based visions to grow their businesses. Mr. Walker earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design with honors from London College of Communication, University of the Arts London, England.