Stopping Alzheimer’s Cold: Satori Raises $22M to Pursue Its Vision
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to make this type of drug extraordinarily safe, Ives says. It will have to be given to patients without a life-threatening condition, on a chronic basis, for probably 20 years per patient. Since patients will start out in their 60s, most will be already taking other medicines for high blood pressure, diabetes, and other chronic conditions of aging. That means the Satori drug will have to be free of drug-drug interactions, he says.
Ives wouldn’t be specific about exactly how far along the work has progressed in animal testing. But he did say the drugs have moved beyond the petri dish—where many other drugs have shown misleading hints of effectiveness—and has cleared more difficult hurdles in animal tests, including one rat study that showed improved memory in navigating a maze, he says. Satori isn’t providing a firm deadline for when it will bring its first drug into clinical trials, but it hopes to do that in 2010, Ives says.
Satori raised its first $3 million in seed funding in 2005, when it was co-founded by Mark Findeis, a former director of chemistry at Praecis Pharmaceuticals. The scientific advisory board includes a panel of top Alzheimer’s researchers, including Dennis Selkoe of Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, Donald Price of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Chris Eckman of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL.
Competition doesn’t sound like a huge concern to Ives. Last year, Salt Lake City-based Myriad Genetics announced its candidate in the final stage of clinical trials, Flurizan, failed. Another contender, Wyeth and Elan’s bapineuzumab, produced disappointing results. One of the most exciting options in the clinical trial pipeline, Medivation’s Dimebon, is an antihistamine developed in Russia, which has shown an intriguing ability to improve memory in patients in that country, but will need to reproduce the effect in the U.S., he says.
Ives, 57, sounded very pumped up when I asked him why he decided to join this startup. He was trained as a chemist at Yale, and spent his entire 30-year career at Pfizer, except for a brief stint at GlaxoSmithKline, he says. When he took early retirement in December 2007, he was senior vice president, in charge of drug metabolism across the Pfizer portfolio of 180 drugs in animal testing and early phases of clinical trials, with a $180 million budget. The work was spread across 11 different disease states. But before he took on that corporate responsibility, he was in charge of central nervous system (CNS) drugs. He says he relishes the chance to focus sharply on promising candidates for one of the biggest health challenges in the country.