The first oral drug for eosinophilic asthma patients may be on the horizon.
Asthma-focused Areteia Therapeutics launched this week with $350 million in Series A funding led by Bain Capital Life Sciences. Maverick Capital, Sanofi and Access Biotechnology participated in the round.
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The company was spun out of Pennsylvania-based Knopp, which published results from its phase 2 clinical trial last year that showed its oral drug candidate could reduce the count of blood eosinophil, which is an indication of improving lung function and is found in several asthma-related treatments.
A large market
Areteia’s news marks the largest funding round in the space of asthma- and respiratory-related startups in the past year, according to Crunchbase data. Texas-based ReCode Therapeutics raised $280 million in Series B financing over a period of eight months, and Massachusetts-based Upstream Bio raised $200 million in Series A funding in June.
Around half of the world’s asthma patients have eosinophilic asthma, which limits airflow in the lungs. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates asthma costs the health care system around $50 million a year in clinician labor and hospital resources.
While most patients find inhaled or oral corticosteroid helpful, those products are linked to adverse side effects. Some patients opt to take biologics—treatments made with living organisms—which make up 15% of the moderate-to-severe asthma market.
“It has become clear that lowering the blood eosinophil count results in important clinical benefits in patients with severe eosinophilic asthma,” Ian Pavord, professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Oxford, said in a statement. “Until now, we have only been able to do this with oral steroids or injected biologic treatments. The prospect of an orally active eosinophil lowering drug which is free of the adverse effects of oral steroids is compelling.”
The fresh funding will allow Areteia to take Knopp’s drug candidate through phase 3 clinical trials and investigate new medicines.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias
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