Accelerator Life Science Partners, a Seattle-based life sciences investment fund and umbrella company, unveiled its newest company with a bang Friday.
Proniras Corporation was created to develop the seizure drug tezampanel, originally created by Eli Lilly, and it will do so with the support of an $89.5 million contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).
That payout depends on the company hitting key milestones in the pre-clinical and clinical development of the drug. Proniras also received an undisclosed amount of launch funding from firms including Alexandria Venture Investments, ARCH Venture Partners, Eli Lilly and Company and Johnson & Johnson Innovation.
Proniras will be led by its Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Chris Toombs, formerly the co-founder and CSO of Seattle biotech company Faraday Pharmaceuticals. Accelerator will maintain executive control over the company.
“Treatment of seizures that result from either physiologic or pharmacologic stimuli is suboptimal for many patients,” Toombs said in a press release. “A robust body of clinical and preclinical data supports the potential utility of tezampanel as a novel therapy for seizures and seizure disorders. We believe that tezampanel could address significant unmet need for a safe, effective and durable seizure therapy.”
In conjunction with BARDA, the company will also develop tezampanel as a potential antidote to deadly nerve agents, a class of chemical weapons. Traces of a nerve agent were found after a suspected chemical attack in Syria earlier this month.
As a seizure treatment, tezampanel would be unique among current offerings. The drug works by blocking certain receptors in the central nervous system, preventing excessive neurological activity. Most seizure medications today are benzodiazepines, which are thought to work in the opposite way: By reducing the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Proniras currently has three full-time employees and is based in Accelerator’s Seattle headquarters. It is the seventeenth startup to join Accelerator’s portfolio.