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Acelyrin sets hopes high for arthritis drug with $300M fundraise

Updated: Sep 17, 2022

The well-funded startup is planning Phase 3 trials for a drug it claims could be superior to IL-17 inhibitors from Novartis and others.

Acelyrin, a Californian biotechnology startup, has raised a $300 million Series C round that’ll be used to support late-stage clinical testing of a drug it’s developing for a range of inflammatory diseases, the company announced Tuesday.

The funding will bankroll two Phase 3 trials of a drug prospect known as izokibep. In 2021, Acelyrin paid $25 million to acquire the drug from Swedish drugmaker Affibody. It’s since raised more than half a billion dollars and completed Phase 2 trials in two types of inflammatory conditions, psoriatic arthritis and axial spondyloarthritis. Now it aims to bring the medicine into the final stages of human testing.

That type of profile would typically make Acelyrin a candidate for an initial public offering. But the turbulent state of the public markets led the Los Angeles-based company to raise another round of private funding instead.

“The goal of the $300 million was twofold: one was to accelerate the psoriatic arthritis and axial spondyloarthritis programs, two was to ensure those programs would be funded all the way through to [a regulatory] filing,” Paul Peloso, chief medical officer at Acelyrin, said in an interview with BioPharma Dive.

Izokibep is a small molecule drug that targets an immune system-regulating protein called interleukin-17A, or IL-17A. The protein is well known to drug developers, as it’s the target of Novartis’s Cosentyx and Eli Lilly’s Taltz. Bausch Health’s Siliq targets the related IL-17 receptor A. Studies show drugs that stop IL-17 from binding to its receptor can reduce the inflammation, as well as the amount of swelling and pain. Multiple are approved to treat psoriatic arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.

Acelyrin’s drug has shown promise, too. Phase 2 study results presented at a medical meeting in June suggested the medicine has a chance to be more effective than some existing treatments.

Yet psoriatic arthritis is a crowded field. In addition to the other IL-17 inhibitors, a variety of other medications are available to patients too, including pills known as JAK inhibitors. Acelyrin believes its drug can stand out because of its potential to be more potent.

“We think the trade-off of better efficacy against something a little less convenient is an easy one for patients,” Peloso said.

The company will also use the funds to continue trials for izokibep in treating a type of skin lesion called hidradenitis suppurativa and uveitis, a form of eye inflammation.

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Published original Source Sept. 14, 2022 Gwendolyn Wu, Reporter

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