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RA Capital Seeds Peanut Allergy Prevention Startup With $1.7M

Xconomy Boston — 

A Boston startup that aims to prevent babies from developing peanut allergies has raised $1.7 million in seed funding from RA Capital Management, a “crossover” investor that backs both public and private companies.

That money will help Antera Therapeutics, which was founded in 2014, begin selling what it calls Aralyte, a liquid formula containing small doses of peanut protein and vitamins. Aralyte and developed with allergists and pediatricians from Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital. Antera plans to sell its product in more than 100 clinics across the U.S. this year, as well as directly to consumers via its website.

The idea behind Aralyte is to expose infants to small but increasingly higher doses of peanut protein early in life. Antera is building off a study published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine, in which researchers found that early introduction of peanuts “significantly” decreased the frequency of the development of peanut allergy in children.

Aralyte is meant to implement the peanut regimen in the NEJM study. By doing so, the product, which is intended for infants who are three months to six months old, is supposed to help prevent the onset of peanut allergy, according to CEO and founder Clarence Friedman. The liquid formula is taken over a period of a few months—the company recommends people consult with an allergist to determine how long to actually take it, as well as when trying the first dose—and contains between one gram to six grams of peanut protein, according to Antera’s website.

The company is targeting families with babies who may be at risk of developing an allergy to peanuts because of a family history, or people who are just generally concerned that their infant could become allergic, Friedman said. It is not targeting people that are already allergic to peanuts and is not intended to be a treatment for peanut allergies, he said.

Friedman wouldn’t estimate how big the market opportunity is for Antera. He said one in 13 of the 4 million infants born in the U.S. every year will have a food allergy.

At least one other company is developing a treatment for people who already have food allergies. Aimmune Therapeutics (NASDAQ: AIMT), based in Brisbane, CA, raised $160 million in an initial public offering last year to take its pharmaceutical-grade, oral therapy for peanut allergy through late-stage testing. The company released Phase 2 results earlier this year. (RA Capital was also an early investor in Aimmune.)

Aimmune has products in development to treat other allergies, including eggs. Antera is not prepared to comment on its future portfolio, Friedman said. “You can safely say we are looking toward helping along multiple food allergies,” he added.

Three others joined RA Capital in the funding: Martin Madaus, chairman and CEO of Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics; Gil Omenn, the CEO of the University of Michigan Health System; and Joe Gentile, the CEO of Stemgent, a Lexington, MA-based stem cell researcher.

Antera raised $265,000 in a debt financing in 2015, according to a regulatory filing. Aralyte costs $60 per month.