San Diego Business Journal

Libra Therapeutics, a biotechnology company focused on developing novel disease-modifying therapeutics, has officially launched with $29 million in Series A financing to restore the cellular balance lost in neurodegenerative diseases.

The fresh financing was co-led by the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF), Epidarex Capital and Santé. Other firms involved included Yonjin Venture, Dolby Family Ventures, and Sixty Degree Capital.

The financing proceeds will be used primarily to build the team and advance a pipeline of novel small molecule drug candidates for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

Libra’s science comes from Axxam S.p.A, an Italian research organization providing the new biotech with proprietary chemical matter. The central idea involves regulating cellular autophagy — that natural cleaning process — to combat the buildup of toxic proteins typically seen in neurodegenerative diseases.

Three Preclinical Programs

The company already has three preclinical programs, with its lead candidate targeting ALS and frontotemporal dementia.

CEO Isaac Veinbergs said the company hopes to develop therapies for a wide range of diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s.

“My career has been dedicated to CNS drug discovery. I have seen firsthand the devastation diseases like ALS, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease have on patients and their families,” said Veinbergs.

In the lead program, Libra is focusing on the loss of function in the C9orf72 gene, which is the most frequent genetic cause of ALS and FTD. Though the entire mechanism of the gene is not fully understood, studies have suggested it is involved in intracellular trafficking and autophagy in neuronal cells, Veinbergs said.

“It’s not a novel approach, but we think that with the capabilities and expertise that we have in Axxam and their proprietary assets that we have a leg up on the competition,” said Veinbergs. “We think that the ability to run screens and set up in vitro assays gives us the capability potential to have significant impact in the research as well as the development of drugs.”