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Brain disease startup Neumora draws more funding for ambitious research plan

Launched last year to change how brain drugs are made, the biotech has now raised about $650 million to build its pipeline of neurodegenerative and psychiatric therapies.

One of the most richly funded biotechnology startups to launch in recent years now has more money to add to its pot. On Tuesday, Neumora Therapeutics revealed it’s raised $112 million from a battery of pharmaceutical and venture investors to advance its pipeline of brain disease drugs.

The Watertown, Mass.-based biotech emerged from stealth one year ago with $100 million from Amgen as well as $400 million from Arch Venture Partners and more than a dozen other firms.

Neumora focuses on diseases of the brain and central nervous system, or CNS — a notoriously difficult area of research but one that’s drawn increasing investor interest in recent years. The company aims to develop therapies better targeted to specific groups of patients who, while they might share a similar diagnosis with many others, have different factors driving their disease.

New treatments are urgently needed for neurological diseases, said Neumora CEO Paul Berns. But too few have been forthcoming, in part because doctors and researchers have grouped heterogeneous conditions in broad categories.

“We thought we could ultimately break through the heterogeneity issue, which has really stifled true drug innovation in CNS medicines,” Berns said.

The company currently has two drugs in clinical trials: NMRA-140, an oral opioid receptor antagonist for depression in Phase 2 testing; and NMRA-511 for anxiety disorders in a Phase 1 study. Its pipeline is more advanced than biotech startups typically are at this stage, although the company was built from the foundation of several others.

In a statement on the newest fundraising, Neumora referenced five other drug development programs in its pipeline and Josh Pinto, the company’s chief financial officer, noted the company is looking outside its walls, too.

“We didn’t want to necessarily focus on building everything in-house and organically,” said Pinto. “From a pipeline development perspective, we’re focused on mixing both our internal discovery efforts with business development activities so we’ve been able to scale the pipeline quite quickly.”

Among the drugs in its pipeline are treatments for Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. In February, the company licensed a research program from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee that it plans to develop for schizophrenia.

Pinto said Neumora expects to read out results from its Phase 2 study of NMRA-140 by the end of the year.

Published Oct. 11, 2022

Gwendolyn Wu, Reporter

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