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Appello Pharma completes Series A to advance treatment of Parkinson's
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NASHVILLE-BASED Appello Pharmaceuticals Inc. yesterday reported completing its Series A capital raise at $15.5MM.

Shortly after it became operational in 2018, the company announced it had raised $10.5MM in Series A financing, to that point.

Each of the company's capital-raising reports thus far to the SEC has shown five investors aboard, including representatives of two Series A leaders -- NYC-based Deerfield Management Company and Mountain Group Partners, the Nashville VC.

Since its inception, Appello's focus has been on advancing a set of novel compounds -- positive allosteric modulators (PAMs) of the metabotropic glutamate receptor subtype 4 ("mGlu4") -- en route to a sought-after new treatment for Parkinson's disease.

Brian Laden PhD

Appello is led by Co-founder, President and COO Brian Laden PhD. Laden is also co-founder and a managing director of TriStar Health Partners, a Nashville VC that has a portfolio weighted toward healthIT and communications, and medical devices, plus a team well versed in advancing and commercializing intellectual property emanating from Vanderbilt University and other sources.

Joe Cook Jr.

Appello's executive chairman is Joe Cook Jr., who is founder and managing director of a Nashville 17-year-old venture-capital firm, Mountain Group Partners.

Cook is also a past chairman of the Life Science Tennessee industry association; and, a veteran CEO, director and executive chairman of a series of biopharma businesses, including NuSirt Sciences, Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Eli Lilly and its Elanco division, Corcept Therapeutics and others.

Parkinson's disease, of course, is the progressive nervous system disorder that often leads to patients' shaking, stiffness, and difficulty walking, swallowing, speaking, balancing and coordinating, as well as emotional, sleep and other problems.

Various sources online suggest that nearly 1 million U.S. residents (men, more often than women) are living with Parkinson's now, with an increase of perhaps 30% projected by 2030. Failure to seek early testing, diagnosis and medical care for chronic illnesses may be more common during times of socioeconomic stress.

Public dread of the onset of Parkinson's brain disease, healthcare costs and the prospect of a patient's lost independence, as well as emotional and socio-economic impediments to care-seeking are well established. Related study here.

Parkinson's is caused by the death of nerve cells in a specific brain region that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine.

There is currently no actual cure for Parkinson's disease, and dopamine-replacement therapy (DRT) prevails as standard treatment.

Appello management has previously said that DRT "relieves some motor symptoms of the disease, but over time it causes debilitating side effects such as involuntary, uncontrollable movements, called dyskinesia. Current Parkinson's treatments also provide a decreasing benefit to patients as the disease worsens over the long term. The mGlu4 PAMs work in a fundamentally different way from dopamine replacement therapy, instead modulating another of the brain's neurotransmitters, glutamate."

In contrast, the mGlu4 PAMs on which Appello is focused have been shown in a pre-clinical modeling context to reach the brain and relieve motor symptoms.

Appello holds a license for mGlu4-specific PAMs that were developed within what is now known as the Warren Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery at Vanderbilt University, formerly known as the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery (VCNDD).

The above-mentioned VCNDD was initially led for nearly 18 years by Founding Director and now Director Emeritus Jeff Conn PhD, who also holds the Lee E. Limbird Endowed Chair as a professor of pharmacology and principal investigator in the Conn Lab at Vanderbilt University. Earlier VNC coverage of Jeff Conn here.

Effective today, Dec. 1, Conn is succeeded as Warren Center director by his long-time colleague at both VU and Merck, Craig Lindsley. Lindsley is the William K. Warren, Jr. Chair in Medicine and University Professor of Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Chemistry. Lindsley's LinkedIn here says Lindsley is also an Appello founder.

Conn remains a member of the Vanderbilt faculty, and is cofounder and member of the board of directors of Appello.

In addition to Cook, Laden and Conn, the Appello board of directors includes Vaughn Bryson, the former President and CEO at Eli Lilly; and, Howie Furst MD and William Slattery, both partners at Deerfield.

Other coverage of Joe Cook Jr. here. Other Deerfield Management notes here. Appello's Nov. 30 SEC filing here.

Appello representatives today deferred comment on the latest raise or future funding options. VNC

. last edited 1711 1 December 2020


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Tags: Appello Pharmaceuticals, Brian Laden, Craig Lindsley, Deerfield Management, Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Jeff Conn, Joe Cook Jr, Life Science Tennessee, Mountain Group Partners, Parkinsons Disease, TriStar Health Partners, Vanderbilt University, Warren Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery


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