The team that pulled off one of Chicago's biggest pharma successes, Naurex, is off and running on its next effort.
Aptinyx, which is developing a treatment for nerve-related pain, raised $65 million to begin clinical trials of a new drug. The Evanston, Ill.-based company was launched last year by the founders of Naurex, which developed a treatment for severe depression. It was bought for $560 million last year by Allergan, a drug giant based in Ireland. It could be worth more if the company hits certain milestones.
Allergan bought the drugs for depression. But the Naurex team, led by Norbert Riedel and Northwestern University researcher Joe Moskal, retained the rights to continue using the same technology to make new drugs for treatment of such things as pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Other potential uses include Parkinson's disease.
At $65 million, Aptinyx raised one of the larger initial rounds of funding by a Chicago life-sciences company.
“It's a great story of exactly what happens when you combine brilliant science and outstanding business leadership,” said Steven Collens, CEO of Matter, an incubator for health-tech startups at the Merchandise Mart. “Regionally, we are increasing our ability to do what they have done: take novel technologies out of the university environment and build great companies. I expect we will see more companies like this forming and being funded in the coming years.”
Aptinyx has about 40 employees, most of them scientists. It expects to begin human clinical trials later this year.
“The team is still together, and the technology was validated by Allergan,” says Riedel, a former Baxter executive who was CEO of Naurex.
Naurex grew out of two decades of work by Moskal on the NMDA receptor in the brain, which plays a role in a range of disorders. Its initial drug for depression, GLYX-13, showed promise as being particularly fast-acting and long-lasting, reducing the frequency with which patients had to take the medication.
With Naurex under its belt, the team didn't have trouble finding investors. Aptinyx's funding round, led by New York-based New Leaf Venture Partners, was oversubscribed, Riedel said. Other investors include Frazier Healthcare Partners, Longitude Capital and Osage University Partners, as well as Chicago-area investors Adams Street Partners, PathoCapital and Northwestern, all of which backed Naurex.
"Naurex team raises $65 million" originally appeared in Crain's Chicago Business.