Applied Therapeutics Closes Financing
Applied Therapeutics Inc., today announced the closing of its Series A financing round. The financing was led by Alexandria Venture Investments alongside E Squared Capital Management, Franklin Berger, ETP Global Fund and Syno Capital. Joel S. Marcus, Chairman, CEO and Founder of Alexandria Real Estate Equities (NYSE: ARE) and Alexandria Venture Investments, and industry expert, Franklin Berger, will join Les Funtleyder of E Squared Capital Management on the Board of Directors.
Applied Therapeutics will use the proceeds of the Series A financing to pursue clinical development of technology licensed earlier this year from Columbia University. The technology, developed by Donald Landry, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Medicine at Columbia University, targets enzymes implicated in metabolic and cardiovascular disease.
“The Series A financing will allow us to advance our clinical programs in metabolic and cardiovascular disease,” said Shoshana Shendelman, Ph.D., Founder, Chairman and CEO of Applied Therapeutics. “We are excited to partner with Columbia University, our world-renowned clinical and scientific advisors, and our strategic investors to bring these important therapies one step closer to patients.”
“As a clinician, I recognize the vital importance of developing drugs in areas of high unmet need with significant public health impact,” said Dr. Landry, an inventor of the technology and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board. “We are excited to continue advancing our technology and look forward to working closely with Applied Therapeutics through this critical early phase of clinical development.”
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A Conversation with Dr. Shoshana Shendelman, Founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Applied Therapeutics, and Dr. Donald Landry, Chair, Department of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board, Applied Therapeutics.
CTV: Dr. Shendelman, you did your doctoral work in neurobiology at Columbia. Tell us how you got involved with this project.
SS: Through my doctoral research, I was aware of the groundbreaking science and innovation happening at the Columbia. Following my PhD, I moved into management consulting, and eventually founded my own firm, working with top pharmaceutical companies and VC firms, who were often looking for early stage technologies to in-license. I originally met with Dr. Landry and Columbia Tech Ventures to see if the technology might be of interest to our pharma or VC clients, but I found the technology to be a really compelling opportunity for a biotech. In short, I ended up having a very different conversation with the group - I proposed licensing the technology myself and forming a startup around it.
CTV: One of the technologies that Applied Therapeutics is developing targets an enzyme called aldose reductase (AR). What can you tell us about it?
SS: Aldose reductase has been a validated drug target for more than 25 years. Activation of AR has been clearly linked to diseases ranging from retinopathy to Acute MI. Overall, indications involving aldose reductase activation are linked to hundreds of millions of patients worldwide.
CTV: AR has been a validated drug target for years—why are there no approved therapies?
SS: Predecessor compounds designed to inhibit the enzyme demonstrated proof of mechanism in animal and human studies, but were weak inhibitors and had to be dosed at very high levels. The benefits of prior AR inhibitors didn’t outweigh the risks of off-target safety effects. One relatively weak aldose reductase inhibitor, epalrestat, was approved for use in Japan in 1993. Efforts to develop new compounds to more effectively target the enzyme without toxic effects have largely failed.
CTV: How was the new technology developed?
SS: Dr. Landry led the development of this technology. He is a clinician who is truly committed to helping patients through solving complex disease problems. We’ve known for 25 years that this enzyme, if inhibited properly, should halt disease progression in a wide range of diseases, and it has been a subject of drug discovery since the 1990s. It bothered Dr. Landry that we knew that this enzyme was implicated in diseases that are major public health problems, but that it hadn’t been effectively targeted yet. Dr. Landry committed his resources in the Division of Experimental Therapeutics, including the great team of scientists that work with him, and applied new technologies and a comprehensive approach to understanding the enzyme. Through their efforts (which spanned nearly 7 years), they were able to develop a series of compounds with a meaningful improvement in safety and efficacy.
CTV: Dr. Landry, if brought to market, the technology you’ve developed could be truly transformative for patients. How might it change disease course for diabetic and cardiac patients?
DL: Currently there is no cure for diabetes, and patients suffering from the complications of diabetes normally have a much lower quality of life. In fact, it is normally the development of these diabetic complications, such as diabetic cardiomyopathy and retinopathy, which leads to premature patient death. Developing any treatment that can stop the pathophysiology of diabetic complications, or at least significantly reduce their implications, would drastically change the course for diabetics in a beneficial way - both in terms of survival and quality of life.