Arialys Therapeutics is seeking to make its mark on the neurological market by developing treatments for autoimmune neuropsychiatric diseases. Recently, the company secured $58 million in seed financing to continue developing its first drug, a compound that blocks pathogenic autoantibodies in the central nervous system. Investors in the financing included the company’s founding investors, Avalon BioVentures, Catalys Pacific, and MPM BioImpact, along with Johnson & Johnson Innovation—JJDC, Inc. and Alexandria Venture Investments.
The company officially launched in December 2021 and has been working quietly in stealth mode until now. Arialys is developing an antibody therapeutic, ART5803, to treat anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis (ANRE), one of the most common forms of autoimmune encephalitis. ANRE is caused by crosslinking autoantibodies that drive internalization of NMDA receptors (NMDAR) resulting in seizures and psychosis in patients. ART5803 is a single-arm antibody that treats ANRE by binding to the same epitope as the NMDAR autoantibodies and blocking them from binding. Arialys purchased ART5803 from Astellas Pharma who had been developing the drug as a treatment for ANRE. That deal closed in 2022.
“Recent scientific discoveries have implicated abnormal autoimmune activity in a number of neuropsychiatric diseases, pointing us in a new direction to develop precision medicines for CNS disorders,” Jay Lichter, PhD, president and CEO of Arialys and managing partner of Avalon BioVentures, said in a statement. These discoveries upended a long-held belief among scientists that the immune system does not operate in the central nervous system, he explained in a conversation with GEN. The fact that it does opens up the possibility of developing novel drugs to treat autoimmune diseases that affect the CNS like ANRE.
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