SAN MATEO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Tranquis Therapeutics, a private immuno-neurology company, launched today with $30 million in Series A funding committed to the discovery and development of innovative medicines with the potential to revolutionize the management of neurodegenerative and aging-related diseases. The financing was co-led by Remiges Ventures and SR One, and included participation from Vivo Capital, Hillsborough Venture, Correlation Ventures and other investors. The company’s novel therapeutic approach stems from groundbreaking research at the Stanford laboratory of Professor Edgar Engleman, MD, Tranquis’ scientific founder, which indicates that myeloid immune cell dysfunction underlies a variety of nervous system disorders such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), Parkinson’s Disease (PD), Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), and age-related neuropathology.
“Worldwide, diseases of neurodegeneration and aging place an enormous burden on patients, families and societies, and we are inspired by the potential for this groundbreaking immuno-neurology platform to have an important impact on health and quality of life,” said Sanjay Kakkar, MD, MSc, MPH, President and CEO of Tranquis. “For our lead program, TQS-168, we have demonstrated in vitro the ability to restore a key metabolic pathway we have shown is dysfunctional in the myeloid immune cells of patients with neurodegenerative diseases, as well as highly encouraging in vivo effects in challenging neurodegenerative disease models. With the support of our investors and proceeds from the Series A financing, we plan to complete the non-clinical development work for our pipeline program, TQS-168, and advance it toward clinical proof of concept in orphan diseases such as ALS or FTD, while further expanding our discovery platform and pipeline with next generation compounds. We also have identified an on-target biomarker that will help inform and possibly accelerate our clinical development program.”
“Tranquis’ novel approach targeting the immunometabolism for neuroinflammation shows great promise, and we look forward to the initiation of clinical development, planned for next year. If successful, this could represent a new class of medicines for neurodegenerative diseases, where the need for new therapies is significant in part because of historical development challenges with other approaches,” said Taro Inaba, Founder and Managing Partner at Remiges Ventures.
“We became interested in the scientific hypothesis behind Tranquis early-on and invested in the seed round. We are even more excited now that the company has advanced significantly with the successful transfer of the technology from Stanford to Tranquis, recruitment of the management team, including Dr. Sanjay Kakkar, continued progress on its programs, and the expansion of the investor syndicate,” said Rajeev Dadoo, Partner at SR One.
Novel Therapeutic Approach and Programs
For more than two decades, Dr. Engleman and researchers in his laboratory at Stanford have explored the link between myeloid immune cell dysfunction and cancer. More recently, they were among the first to discover that altered metabolism of myeloid cells also underlies a variety of nervous system disorders. It is now understood that neurodegenerative diseases begin with a specific injury or defect that results in the deposition or accumulation of toxic substances which induces an inflammatory myeloid cell response. Myeloid cells such as brain resident microglia and peripheral macrophages normally take up and break down everything from dying cells to foreign matter, but if overwhelmed can become inflamed and secrete a range of tissue-damaging molecules. Tranquis’ initial therapeutic candidates target a master metabolic pathway which is downregulated in myeloid cells in patients with neurodegenerative diseases.
“Our focus is across the whole spectrum of myeloid cell pathology, seeking to restore normal myeloid cell function that in turn promotes the effective uptake and metabolism of toxins by myeloid cells and reduces their inflammatory responses, as well as influencing the trafficking of myeloid cells from the periphery to the central nervous system,” said Dr. Engleman. In addition to his research career and academic appointments at Stanford, Dr. Engleman has been a founder of multiple biopharmaceutical companies including Genelabs, Dendreon, Medeor, Bolt and Tranquis, and is a founding partner at Vivo Capital.
Tranquis is discovering and developing a portfolio of small molecules which cross the blood-brain barrier. The company is initially focusing development in orphan diseases including ALS and FTD, with the TQS-168 program currently in preclinical development. In addition, Tranquis is developing a second generation of compounds from the TQS-168 platform targeting more prevalent diseases such as PD, AD and age-related pathologies.
Experienced Leadership Team
Tranquis is led by an accomplished team of industry veterans with backgrounds in research and medicine as well as company building, product development and commercialization, and operations. CEO Dr. Sanjay Kakkar is a biotech entrepreneur and executive with over 25 years of experience in multinational, early stage and high growth enterprises. He has a track record of building innovative companies in the life sciences industries and advancing novel technologies for the improvement of human health. He served as CEO at Peptilogics, Armetheon, and Trigen (which he also co-founded), and was the founder and chairman of Jai Medica. Dr. Kakkar received his medical degree from King’s College, University of London, holds a Master’s degree in healthcare management from Harvard University and a Master’s degree in preventive cardiology from Imperial College.
Tranquis’ Chief Business Officer, Titus Plattel, MSc, MBA has 25 years of experience leading life sciences organizations in operations, corporate development, and product planning and commercial roles. His executive positions include Chief Operating Officer at early development stage companies, VP of Corporate Development at Bavarian Nordic, and senior marketing and commercial positions at Tolerx, Therion Biologics, Biogen and Amgen. Mr. Plattel has a MSc from Radboud University in the Netherlands and an MBA from Pepperdine Graziadio Business School.
The company’s seasoned board of directors includes Mr. Dadoo, Dr. Engleman, Mr. Inaba, and Dr. Kakkar, as well as CP Liu, PhD, a career scientist, entrepreneur and venture capitalist in the life sciences industry, and Mahendra Shah, PhD, Managing Director at Vivo Capital.
Tranquis Therapeutics is discovering and developing innovative medicines with the potential to revolutionize the management of neurodegenerative and aging-related diseases and to dramatically reduce the burden these illnesses place on patients, families and societies worldwide. Founded on groundbreaking neuro-immunology research from the laboratory of Professor Edgar Engleman, MD, at Stanford University, Tranquis’ novel therapeutic approach targets underlying myeloid immune cell dysfunction that has been linked to a variety of nervous system disorders. The company’s portfolio is comprised of small molecules which cross the blood-brain barrier, and the lead therapeutic candidate has demonstrated highly encouraging effects in challenging preclinical models of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), Parkinson’s Disease (PD), and age-related cognitive impairment. Tranquis plans to initiate development in orphan neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS and FTD and later expand into more prevalent diseases such as PD and Alzheimer’s Disease. For more information, visit www.tranquis.com.