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This branch of our Sponsor Atlas series focuses on young pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies that are in early stages or stealth mode. In the next edition of Sponsor Atlas: Discovering Biotech Startups, we’re looking at MedaRed, exploring the current affairs and future orientation of this emerging San Francisco - based stealth biotech company. To accomplish this, we will give a business overview of their current operations, summarize their outsourcing needs, map out their development goals and decision-makers, and highlight their current strategies for capturing innovation. If you haven’t already read our other blogs on new biotech startups, be sure to check them out here.
MedaRed, Inc. is a stealth biotech startup focused on discovering molecules that reduce neuroinflammation and the subsequent damage to neurons, by specifically developing new therapeutics targeting fibrin.
MedaRed does not currently have any registered trademarks or operating website, so we had to do some investigating on our own to gather clues about their research and potential products. MedaRed’s principal place of business, as noted on the Sec Form D, is located at 1650 Owens Street, Suite 259, San Francisco, CA 94158. This is also the location of the Gladstone Institutes, an independent and nonprofit biomedical research organization affiliated with UCSF. The business was registered in Delaware as a C-Corp with a filing date on 10/17/2016, and it was incorporated in CA on 11/14/2016, with a registered agent address through CORP2000 in California.
MedaRed just closed a seed round on July 8, 2019, and announced the completion of $6.5 million in seed financing, with the round being led by the Dementia Discovery Fund and Dolby Family Ventures. In addition to the recent seed round funding, MedaRed also received research funding up to $330,000 from the National MS Society through its Fast Forward program to further develop and “humanize” an antibody that targets fibrin, by making it more similar to human antibodies and more suitable for use as a potential therapeutic in patients with MS. Current estimates show this company has an annual revenue of around $26,000 and employs a staff of approximately 1-2. At this point in time, the revenues aren’t huge for this early startup, but considering their substantial amount of funding recently, we are expecting to see a lot of business activities from them in the near future.
While there isn’t much online information about their outsourcing needs, the recent seed round funding means that MedaRed will have plenty of money to spend on their outsourced research and drug development expenses. MedaRed will use the seed financing to develop these molecules into therapeutics that target fibrin for people with diseases that have a significant unmet clinical need. The initial focus of the company will be on Alzheimer's disease (AD) and multiple sclerosis (MS). Even though the company is in a very early stage in development, we can definitely expect to see an increased need for outsourcing activities in the near future. While they begin working through the usual steps to reach IND, we think business development teams in the realms of large molecule CMOs, custom antibody development and manufacturing services, and preclinical CROs specializing in animal model development for neuroinflammation should have MedRed on their radar over the next few years.
MedaRed’s Pipeline and R&D Focus
MedaRed’s primary research goal is to discover and develop novel, effective, disease-modifying therapeutics for dementia and CNS related disorders. MedaRed's key technology was invented by its co-founder Dr. Katerina Akassoglou, who discovered molecules that reduce neuroinflammation and the subsequent damage to neurons. Dr. Akassoglou and colleagues discovered that fibrin, a blood-clotting factor, is implicated in the toxic inflammation that damages these neurons in neurological diseases including AD and MS.
Dr. Akassoglou has led a series of studies to uncover the role of a blood-clotting protein called fibrin, which "leaks" from the damaged blood-brain barrier and gets deposited in MS brain lesions. Her team showed that fibrin deposits hinder natural nervous system repair and can activate immune cells in the brain known as microglia, triggering inflammation and nerve damage. Using an antibody that inhibits fibrin, her team has been able to decrease the activation of microglia, and reduce subsequent damage to nerve fibers in mice.  The recent funding will enable the company to further develop this particular antibody that has shown promise in preclinical studies as a potential treatment to protect the nervous system from MS damage. The current focus of MedaRed’s pipeline will be optimizing these drug candidates and launching successful clinical trials while building strategic relationships with outsourcing partners.
- Dr. Katerina Akassoglou - MedaRed is founded upon the pioneering work of Dr. Akassoglou, Senior Investigator at Gladstone Institutes and Professor of Neurology at UCSF. Prof. Akassoglou earned a doctorate in neuroimmunology from the University of Athens, Greece, trained in neuropathology at the University of Vienna and did postdoctoral work at The Rockefeller University and New York University. Her awards are numerous, including the 2007 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the John J. Abel Award in Pharmacology, a EUREKA R01, the NINDS R35 Research Program Award, and most recently the 2018 Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research.
- Dr. Edward Spack - President at MedaRed, is a biotech executive with over 20 years of experience in scouting, evaluating, and managing translational development projects from academia and biotech companies, and leading multidisciplinary teams in neurology, autoimmunity, infectious disease, and cancer therapeutics. Dr. Spack received his doctoral degree from The Johns Hopkins University and his postdoctoral fellowship in cellular immunology at Stanford University. He has a strong focus on preclinical development and translating internal and external discoveries from the lab and onto clinical trials.
- Daniel Burgess - Acting CEO for MedaRed, is also a venture partner at SV Health Investors (SV). Mr. Burgess was the founder, President, and CEO of Rempex Pharmaceuticals, Inc., an antibiotic company that was sold to the Medicines Company for approximately $475 million. Previously, Mr. Burgess was President and CEO of Mpex Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a company that advanced an inhaled antibiotic for cystic fibrosis patients into Phase 3 clinical trials, and which was acquired by Aptalis, Inc. (now Allergan) in 2011. Mr. Burgess has also held senior executive positions at a number of other biotechnology companies and serves on the boards of directors of numerous public and private companies.
- Dr. Jeffrey Stavenhagen - CSO at MedaRed, brings 20 years of scientific leadership experience in both the U.S. and Europe using emerging technology platforms for the development of novel biologics. Dr. Stavenhagen was VP of Biology at Therachon, where he was responsible for preclinical research and CMC until the company's recent acquisition by Pfizer, Inc. for around $800 million. Prior to Therachon, Dr. Stavenhagen served as a Senior Director at Lundbeck (Denmark) and led their global biologics program to treat CNS diseases. Dr. Stavenhagen started his career as an assistant professor at the University of Dayton in the Department of Biology. He received his Ph.D. in molecular biology from Columbia University and performed his Post-Doctoral research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington.
MedaRed is seeking to capture innovation and originality in scientific research relevant to multiple sclerosis, with emphasis on the impact and potential of the research to lead to pathways for the treatment and cure for MS and AD. And with their innovative approach to targeting fibrin, their therapeutics have the potential to protect the nervous system in both early and late phases of MS, of particular importance to people living with MS disability and progression.  Noting on MedRed’s early progress, CSO Jeffrey Stavenhagen, Ph.D. said, "Fibrin is a common thread in various diseases with blood leaks and chronic inflammation in the brain and the periphery. With support from DDF and Dolby Family Ventures, there is an opportunity for MedaRed to develop a new class of therapeutics for numerous diseases with vascular damage including Alzheimer's disease.”
Using their innovative approach into fibrin research, Dr. Akassoglou and her team could be in a paramount position to achieve neuroprotection in diverse disorders without shutting down protective immune responses or blood clotting. The next step will be to make a version of the antibody that can be used in human clinical trials. Given that the treatment targets an immune response and a blood clotting factor, Akassoglou cautions, however, that tests monitoring the immune system and blood clotting will be important during their upcoming clinical evaluations.
How can I find new biotech startups?
If you would like a simple solution for keeping an eye on drug sponsor companies, like MedaRed Inc., without relying on a database and generic lists of leads each week, we at Zymewire are here to help. Reach out today, and stay tuned for the next installment of the Sponsor Atlas: Discovering new Biotechs. If you enjoy these articles, please feel free to give them a share through the social links below!