When a patient is bedridden during a hospital stay, they can lose muscle mass at a rapid clip, compounding problems from their original illness. But what if there was a way to prevent that muscle loss from happening in the first place?
Seattle-based biotech startup Faraday Pharmaceuticals is trying to do just that and has raised $25 million to fund their efforts, with backing from ARCH Venture Partners, Polaris, and others. The round, which has not yet closed, could bring in as much as $30 million this year, the company said.
“Many diseases are compromised by additional loss of muscle,” said Faraday CEO Steve Hill. “Increasingly, the problem in healthcare is poor health for long periods of time. We want to focus on minimizing the morbidity associated with disease by focusing on reducing cardiac muscle damage and skeletal muscle damage.”
Faraday was spun out of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and based on research by Mark Roth, who now serves as a director at Faraday. Steven Gillis, managing director at ARCH Venture Partners, co-founded the company and is chairman of the board.
The company is creating a therapy for patients who have undergone surgery following a heart attack. Their main weapon is a drug containing iodide that aims to prevent tissue damage known as reperfusion injury that can occur after a heart attack.
The company recently completed a phase 2 study with 120 healthy volunteers to establish the safety of the drug. It is preparing for a planned phase 3 study next year to test its drug on a kind of heart attack known as ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction.
Long term, Faraday wants to use the same drug to prevent skeletal muscle loss throughout the body.
“It appears that in significant stress situations, whether it be a myocardial infarction or other severe stress, the body switches off muscle building and switches on muscle destruction,” Hill said. Patients in an intensive care unit can lose 10 to 12 percent of their skeletal muscle mass in a week, he added.
Prior to joining Faraday, Hill was CEO of Targacept, a biopharmaceutical company that merged with Catalyst Biosciences in 2015. Other members of the leadership team include Brian Blackman, chief financial and business officer, and chief medical officer Simon Tulloch.