Enzyme Maker Alcresta Nabs $10M from Third Rock, Bessemer, Frazier

4/17/12Follow @arleneweintraub

The team behind Newton, MA-based Allena Pharmaceuticals, which started up six months ago to develop enzyme-based drugs, is announcing today that they’ve formed a second enzyme company, Alcresta, to turn novel enzymes into nutritional supplements. That team—Third Rock Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Frazier Healthcare Ventures—put $15 million into Allena, and is pouring another $10 million into the new company. And to take advantage of the synergies between Allena and Alcresta, the startups will share an office and a management team, at least in the beginning stages, says Alexey Margolin, CEO of both companies.

Alcresta’s products are designed to address a shortcoming of nutritional goods such as infant formulas for premature babies and fortified drinks for adults suffering from chronic diseases. Those products usually contain the “good fats,” such as omega-3 and omega-6, which support the immune system and have been shown to improve heart and brain health. Problem is, many preemies and adults with health problems can’t properly digest those fats, because they lack the enzymes they need to do so.

Alcresta is developing boosters—enzyme supplements that can be used by caregivers to enhance the digestibility of formulas and nutritional drinks. “There’s a $20 billion market for infant formula, for example, despite the fact that virtually all premature babies can’t digest it,” says Robert Gallotto, founder and chief operating officer of Alcresta. “We’re taking those products one step forward.”

The potential market among preemies alone is quite large, as about 12.4 percent of U.S. infants were born prematurely in 2005, according to the first detailed analysis conducted by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention in 2009.

Alcresta isn’t yet revealing the details of its product line, except to say that it will develop both supplements and … Next Page »

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