Financing Follows FDA Orphan Designation for Startup Working to Improve Outcomes for Very Premature Infants (Cincinnati OH— September 10, 2014)
Airway Therapeutics, a biotechnology company working to prevent a debilitating lung condition in extremely premature infants, has secured $4.6 million in Series A financing. CincyTech led the round, with participation from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Queen City Angels and private investors.
Airway Therapeutics has developed a protein, recombinant human surfactant protein D (AT-100), that could prevent Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (BPD), a serious, chronic lung disease that develops in preterm infants who require ventilation shortly after birth. These babies– tens of thousands every year– are at risk for BPD because they are born before their bodies produce surfactant, the substance that allows lungs to inflate with air. While ventilators help these babies to breathe, they can damage the immature lung tissue in a way that impedes full lung development and leads to BPD. Babies with BPD often have repeated pneumonias, hospitalizations and a higher incidence of asthma. Pre-clinical data suggest treatment with Airway’s AT-100, in addition to the commercial surfactant that is currently available, more effectively prevents the infection and lung damage than does the current standard of care.
“The funding will enable Airway to propel the development of AT-100 significantly forward,” said CEO Marc Salzberg, MD. “It will allow us to make progress along three critical and parallel paths: formulation, manufacturing and the design of the animal testing required in preparation for clinical trials involving patients.”
“The business case for bringing AT-100 to market has never been stronger,” said Mike Venerable, Managing Director at CincyTech. “This promising therapeutic is based on world class science and guided by an experienced team.”
Airway’s treatment is based on a decade of pioneering research by Dr. Jeffrey Whitsett, MD, at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “Cincinnati Children’s is proud to be a part of this funding cycle to help accelerate AT-100 into the clinic,” said Nicole Robinson, PhD, Assistant Vice President of CCHMC’s Center for Technology Commercialization. “This much needed therapeutic has the potential to improve the outcome for some of our smallest and sickest babies.”
In the months prior to the financing round, the case for AT-100 gained momentum on two continents. Both the US Food and Drug Administration and European regulators granted orphan designation to Airway. Orphan designation is an important milestone for companies working to cure rare diseases, offering financial incentives, prioritized review and market exclusivity.