Valerie Daggett, co-founder and CEO at AltPep, accepts the award for Health Innovation of the Year at the 2023 GeekWire Awards. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

University of Washington spinout AltPep, which is developing tests and treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, completed a $52.9 million Series B funding round.

The funding will help propel the company’s experimental treatments into clinical trials and support its regulatory application for a blood test to detect Alzheimer’s disease at its earliest stages, according to a statement Thursday announcing the funding.

AltPep targets a form of Amyloid-beta, a molecule that builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease years before symptoms appear. These “toxic oligomers” are thought to trigger a host of other pathologies.

The company is also targeting a protein associated with Parkinson’s disease that has a similar molecular structure.

“We’re going after that first molecular trigger for the pathology,” said CEO and co-founder Valerie Daggett in an interview with GeekWire last August, after the company disclosed a $44.4 million raise in a regulatory filing, part of the Series B round.

Daggett, who is also a University of Washington bioengineering professor, envisions a future where people are routinely screened for Alzheimer’s disease and potentially receive preventive treatment before cognitive symptoms develop.

AltPep’s experimental test for Alzheimer’s disease detects toxic proteins, “oligomers,” that form in the brain prior to the development of symptoms. Such oligomers are also found in the blood, where they are picked up by the test. (AltPep Image)

Preclinical studies show that the company’s lead compound for Alzheimer’s disease improves cognitive deficits linked to toxic oligomers in mice, Daggett told GeekWire. She anticipates that the compound could be in clinical trials in 2024.

A host of other agents, however, have failed in clinical trials after initial success in animal studies, and new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease are badly needed.

In January, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Amyloid-beta targeting drug lecanemab for the condition, and data finding an effect on cognition bodes well for AltPep’s approach, said Daggett in a previous GeekWire interview.

Daggett and her colleagues also recently published data on their experimental test for Alzheimer’s disease. They found that the test could detect the oligomers in the banked blood of 52 out of 53 people with Alzheimer’s disease who were confirmed to have the disease by autopsy — currently the only way to diagnose the condition with certainty. The test could also detect the oligomers in people who later went on to develop mild cognitive impairment.

In May, AltPep took home the top prize for “Health Innovation of the Year” at the GeekWire Awards. Daggett aims to expand the AltPep team from about 30 employees to more than 50 in the next few years.

The new funding round was led by Senator Investment Group and builds on a $23.1 million Series A round in January 2021. Participants in the Series B round include previous investors Alexandria Venture Investments and Matrix Capital, and new backers Partners Investment, Eli Lilly and Co., and Section 32 (founded by former Google Ventures CEO Bill Maris).

Senator Investment Group analyst Rohit Vanjani will join AltPep’s board of directors and Ronald DeMattos, senior vice president and chief scientific officer for neurobiologicals at Lilly, will join AltPep’s scientific advisory board.

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