GSK and Avalon Ventures expand their collaboration


Launch Iron Horse Therapeutics, a developer of novel treatments for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)

GSK and venture capital firm Avalon Ventures are expanding their collaboration to fund and launch early-stage life science companies in San Diego, CA, US.

The collaboration is now worth up to a potential additional US$60m in combined funding and earn-outs per company if marketed products are developed.

Under the terms of the expanded collaboration, initially established in April 2013, GSK and Avalon will create and fund additional companies through the development of clinical candidates. These companies will also receive operational support, a fully equipped R&D facility and an experienced leadership team through COI Pharmaceuticals, the Community Of Innovation established by Avalon Ventures in 2013.

'The commitment by GSK has allowed us to move with unprecedented speed in transitioning concepts and ideas into functioning companies addressing unmet clinical needs,' said Jay Lichter, Managing Director of Avalon Ventures and President of COI Pharmaceuticals. 'The newest, Iron Horse Therapeutics, is pioneering a novel approach to ALS, a disease in critical need of solutions.'

The companies we have founded in collaboration with Avalon will continue to build GSK's portfolio of innovative therapeutics

Lon Cardon, Senior Vice President, Alternative Discovery & Development at GSK, said: 'Avalon Ventures and COI Pharmaceuticals foster the type of innovative thinking that the pharmaceutical industry needs.

'The entrepreneurial and nimble companies we have founded in collaboration with Avalon will continue to build GSK's portfolio of innovative therapeutics.'

Iron Horse Therapeutics, the seventh company launched so far under the Avalon-GSK collaboration, is researching and developing novel treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that modulate the activity of a protein called EphA4. ALS patients with reduced EphA4 expression or activity have less severe disease and live longer. Interfering with EphA4 signalling protects motor neurons from degeneration, and, in ALS animal models, this approach has been shown to prolong survival and decrease disease severity.

Proprietary small molecule inhibitors of EphA4 were identified in the laboratory of Maurizio Pellecchia, Professor of Translational Research at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute. This technology was exclusively licensed to Iron Horse Therapeutics.

As with the other companies founded under the collaboration, Iron Horse will receive up to $10m in Series A financing and R&D support from Avalon and GSK as well as R&D and mentoring support through COI Pharmaceuticals.

The collaboration between GSK and Avalon Ventures has previously launched Sitari Pharma, Silarus Therapeutics, Thyritope Biosciences, Adrenergics, Cadherx Therapeutics, and Calporta Therapeutics.

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Under the collaboration, GSK has the option to acquire each of the companies when a clinical candidate is identified. However, if GSK does not elect to exercise this option, Avalon will retain its ownership in the company, and the company will be free to enter into other transactions.