Latus Bio Launches with $54 Million Series A to Advance CNS Gene Therapy

03 May 2024 | Friday | News

Backed by notable investors including 8VC and DCVC Bio, Latus Bio aims to transform the treatment of CNS disorders with its innovative gene therapy technologies.
Image Source : Public Domain

Image Source : Public Domain

Latus Bio, a biotechnology company developing novel gene therapy candidates for disorders of the central nervous system (CNS), today announced its launch and an initial close of $54 million in Series A financing. The funding round is being led by 8VC and DCVC Bio. To date, Samsung Life Science Fund (created by Samsung C&T, Samsung Biologics, Samsung Bioepis and Samsung Venture Investment Corporation), The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Foundation, Benjamin Franklin Technology Partners, Modi Ventures, and Gaingels have joined as syndicate partners.

Originating from the lab of co-founder Professor Beverly Davidson at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Latus is developing CNS gene therapy candidates, using proprietary technologies that have been used to identify and engineer novel adeno-associated virus (AAV) capsid variants with the aim of showing unprecedented potency, specificity, and safety.

AAV-mediated gene therapy has long held promise for the treatment of genetically-defined CNS disorders; but, until now, it has been limited by its inability to transduce specific CNS substructures and cell types with requisite specificity. These limitations have led to the reliance on high-dose injections that cause off-target toxicity and difficulties in scalable manufacturing. Latus’s proprietary technologies aim to directly address these challenges by enabling massively paralleled and unbiased screening of novel AAV capsids directly in non-human primates (“NHP”). In these preclinical NHP models, Latus’s capsid variants demonstrated high gene expression in precise CNS locations with target cell specificity and minimal-to-no off-tissue activity. Based on these preclinical data, Latus plans to administer low doses of its product candidates in clinical studies, with the goal of improving safety and enabling successful manufacturing.

"We are excited to introduce Latus and our novel approaches to developing AAV-mediated gene therapies, which we believe have the potential to transform the treatment landscape for genetically-defined CNS disorders,” said P. Peter Ghoroghchian, CEO of Latus. "With this initial close of our Series A financing, we are poised to accelerate the development of our innovative candidates for CLN2 disease - with first-in-human dosing planned in late 2025 - and for Huntington’s disease, as we seek to address these challenging conditions."

The Company’s management team is composed of experienced and respected leaders in gene therapy and neuroscience. Led by CEO P. Peter Ghoroghchian, a physician-scientist and serial biotechnology entrepreneur, the team brings a wealth of experience in advancing innovative therapies from platform identification to preclinical discovery and through successful clinical development. Latus co-founder Professor Beverly Davidson and Latus Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Jang-Ho Cha are recent recipients of the 2023 Hereditary Disease Foundation's Transformative Research Award in recognition of their innovative approach to advancing Huntington’s disease research. The award is designed to move the most innovative work in Huntington’s disease from concept to practice by funding collaborative research teams who are focused on creating new disease-modifying treatments and transformational new insights to the Huntington’s disease research field; the 2023 Transformative Research Awards were the largest grants ever awarded by the Hereditary Disease Foundation.

Francisco Gimenez, Partner at 8VC, commented, "We are proud to help Dr. Davidson translate her incredible work at CHOP into Latus. It is so exciting to see the Davidson Lab’s deep insights in AAV therapies coupled with a dream team of drug developers. Empowering this science, team, and mission is the kind of work that makes you so grateful to be an investor.”

Kiersten Stead, Managing Partner at DCVC Bio, said, “The team at Latus has aggregated an immense pool of technology and know-how that we believe could lead them to overcome limitations that have been plaguing the modality—specifically the interconnectedness between therapy manufacturing, specificity, and therapeutic window.”

Latus is attending this year's American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT) 27th Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD, May 7 – 11, 2024; Latus co-founder Professor Beverly Davidson will be a conference keynote speaker. Her address will showcase the Company's progress and the vast potential of its technology to solve unmet needs in CNS gene therapy.

Latus Management Team

Peter Ghoroghchian, MD, PhD, Chief Executive Officer

Dr. P. Peter Ghoroghchian is an American physician-scientist, bioengineer and serial biotechnology entrepreneur. Prior to his current position as CEO of Latus, he most recently served as co-founder, President and CEO of Ceptur Therapeutics. He was previously Senior Vice President and Head of Therapeutic Development at Repertoire Immune Medicines, Chief Technology Officer at Poseida Therapeutics, as well as co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer at Vindico NanoBioTechnology. Earlier in his career, Dr. Ghoroghchian was an attending physician in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and ran an independent research laboratory as the Charles W. and Jennifer C. Johnson Clinical Investigator in the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT.

Jang-Ho Cha, MD, PhD, Chief Scientific and Medical Officer

Jang-Ho Cha, MD, PhD, is a neurologist and neuroscientist who has dedicated his career to the study and treatment of neurodegenerative disorders. Prior to Latus, Dr. Cha held leadership positions at the Novartis Institute for BioMedical Research, where he headed Translational Medicine for Neuroscience, as well as at Merck. He has served on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Hereditary Disease Foundation, as the Chairman of the Board of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America and was part of the team that helped discover the HTT gene for Huntington’s Disease. Dr. Cha also had a long academic career at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, where he treated patients with neurologic disorders and ran an independent research laboratory focused on the molecular mechanisms of Huntington’s disease.

John Connelly, Chief Development Officer

John Connelly is a seasoned biotechnology executive who has led drug development teams in advancing therapeutics from discovery and into the clinic. Prior to Latus, Mr. Connelly was SVP, Portfolio Strategy and R&D Operations, at Akouos, leading the development of a novel device that enables delivery of AAV candidates directly into the cochlea for the treatment of genetic hearing loss. Prior to Akouos, Mr. Connelly held the position of VP, Program and Alliance Management, at Voyager Therapeutics and co-led Voyager’s clinical program in Parkinson’s. Mr. Connelly started his career at the Genzyme Corporation, where he held many positions in Program Management, culminating in heading the Program Management function for Rare Diseases.

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