Cambridge spin-out secures £18m to tackle Alzheimer’s and related diseases

A biopharmaceutical company set-up by Cambridge academics from St John’s College to develop drugs to treat illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and more than 50 other related diseases has won £18 million in a Series A financing round.

Wren Therapeutics raised the funding from an international syndicate led by The Baupost Group with participation from LifeForce Capital and a number of high net worth individual investors.

Several of the company’s scientific founders are members of St John’s, including Professor Sir Christopher Dobson, Master of St John’s, Professor Tuomas Knowles, a St John’s Fellow, and Dr Samuel Cohen, the St John’s Entrepreneur in Residence.

Wren Therapeutics focuses on drug discovery and development for protein misfolding diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and was founded in 2016.

Protein molecules form the machinery which carry out all of the executive functions in living systems. However, proteins sometimes malfunction and become misfolded, leading to a complex chain of molecular events that can cause long-lasting damage to the health of people affected and may ultimately lead to death.

This group of medical disorders are known as protein misfolding diseases. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are widely recognised protein misfolding diseases, but others include type-2 diabetes, motor neurone disease and more than 50 other related illnesses.

Dr. Cohen (pictured) explained: “Protein misfolding diseases are one of the most critical global healthcare challenges of the 21st century but are highly complex and challenging to address. Current strategies – in particular those driven by traditional drug discovery and biological approaches – have proven, at least to date, to be ineffective.

“Wren’s new and unique approach is instead built on concepts from the physical sciences and focuses on the chemical kinetics of the protein misfolding process, creating a predictive and quantitatively driven platform that has the potential to radically advance drug discovery in this class of diseases.”

Wren Therapeutics is a spin-off company from the University of Cambridge and Lund University in Sweden. The company is based at the University of Cambridge, in the recently opened Chemistry of Health Centre, and plans on opening a satellite office in Boston, Massachusetts.

Professor Sir Christopher Dobson said: “Wren is built on many years of highly collaborative, uniquely integrated, interdisciplinary research that has uncovered the key molecular mechanisms associated with protein misfolding diseases.

“I am hugely enthusiastic about our ability to make tangible progress against these diseases and change the course of life for millions of people around the world suffering from these debilitating and increasingly common medical disorders.”

The company will announce its board of directors shortly.

Picture (c) University of Cambridge.