Novartis has led a $34 million financing in Annexon Bioscience, which is developing ANX005 for the treatment of neurodegenerative and autoimmune disorders, principally Huntington’s disease.

The drug is a humanised monoclonal antibody that inhibits early components of the classical complement cascade. Campbell Murray of Novartis Venture Funds (which led the round and was joined by Satter Investment Management and Clarus Ventures) noted that the important role of the latter in antibody-mediated autoimmune disorders “has been known for some time, and the discovery that it contributes to loss of nerve connections in neurodegenerative disease is highly innovative”.

Doug Love, Annexon chief executive, said ANX005 “has the potential to become an important therapeutic agent for these conditions [and] we look forward to executing on our clinical plan to rapidly validate our platform science in Huntington’s”.

Annexon was co-founded in 2011 by Stanford University’s Ben Barres and Arnon Rosenthal, former head of Rinat Neurosciences, which acquired by Pfizer in 2006. Originally financed by venture capital firm Fidelity Biosciences, the company is led by Mr Love and chief scientific officer Ted Yednock, former research chief at Elan and scientific inventor of the multiple sclerosis blockbuster Tysabri (natalizumab).

Ex-Onyx CEO Coles sets up Yumanity

Sticking with the brain and central nervous system, Tony Coles, former chief executive of Onyx who sold the firm to Amgen for $10.5 billion last year, has launched Yumanity Therapeutics.

Dr Coles and “protein-folding science pioneer” Susan Lindquist, a member of the Whitehead Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have set up the company which is initially focused on discovering disease-modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Dr Coles said “our unique approach overcomes the fundamental limitations of today’s target-based drug discovery by exploiting the power of phenotypic screening in yeast and human stem cell-derived neurons”.