Fast forward to this day and the biotech startup in Seattle is nearing FDA approval for its drug therapy that can restore brain function and help people suffering from brain diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Investors are betting heavily on the company, which announced a huge $ 85 million Series B investment on Thursday to drive the future development of its leading therapeutic candidate, NDX-1017.
The drug could stop or reverse the nerve damage that causes Alzheimer's disease and other diseases such as Parkinson's and ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. It uses regenerative technology that restores connections between neurons.
Athira in December presented what it described as positive initial results from a clinical trial in which patients with Alzheimer's disease participated.
According to Kawas, preliminary data show promising evidence that NDX-1017 can not only help slow disease, but also improve brain function. It can also help Alzheimer's patients in both the early and late stages of the disease.
"The potential of the technology is enormous," said Kawas, who founded Athira together with Athira WSU researchers Joseph Harding and Jay Wright.
Depending on the development and approval process, Kawas said the drug could be on the market within 2 to 3 years.
According to the, more than 5 million Americans suffer Alzheimer's AssociationThis number is expected to increase to almost 14 million by 2050. The disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
"Almost everyone I know is directly or indirectly affected by Alzheimer's or other brain diseases," said Kawas. "We look forward to possibly being part of the solution."
Many large pharmaceutical companies have withdrawn from neuroscientific research and development. BioPharma diving In January, it was reported that venture capital funding for the sector was $ 1.5 billion in 2018.
Kawas and Athira COO Mark Litton recognized the unusually large size of the Series B round, especially for a 17-person company trying to develop therapies for brain diseases. "It really confirms what we did," said Litton, an experienced biotech manager who previously co-founded Alder Biopharmaceuticals.
Kawas said the COVID-19 pandemic did not hit Athira, which avoided layoffs and hired new employees.
The company, previously known as M3 Biotechnology, has set itself the goal of growing in Seattle as part of the local biotech and life sciences ecosystem, Kawas said. The startup's early investors include the Washington State Life Sciences Discovery Fund; the Washington Research Foundation; and the Seattle-based W Fund. The Michael J. Fox Foundation also granted Athira an early scholarship.
Other fast-growing biotech startups in the Seattle region are Nautilus Biotechnology, who have just collected a $ 76 million Series B round to build the human proteome, silverback therapeutics, phase genomics, good therapeutics, blaze bioscience and more to investigate.
Kawas holds a doctorate in pharmacy from the University of Jordan. She was named Startup CEO of the Year at the GeekWire Awards last year.
Perceptive Advisors led the series B round, at RTW Investments, Viking Global Investors, Venrock Healthcare Capital-Partner, Franklin Templeton, ROck Springs Capital, LifeSci Venture-Partner, Surveyor Capital, Highside Capital Management, Logos Capital, Sofinnova Investments and Avidity partners participated, funds managed by Janus Henderson Investors, Sahsen Ventures, Rick and Suzanne Kayne.
Joseph Edelman, CEO of Perceptive Advisors, will join the company's board of directors on the new investment. The total funding so far is north of $ 100 million.