EpiVario, an early-stage drug discovery and development company, today announced it has raised $445K in a seed round to support the development of a new treatment for a wide range of memory-related psychiatric disorders at the source, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Alzheimer’s, and alcohol and drug addiction. Founded by University of Pennsylvania epigeneticists, the Company’s novel approach works by targeting the non-essential gene, ACSS2, to prevent the process of negative memory formation or reconsolidation, a key contributor to PTSD and other memory-related conditions. The funds will be used to hire additional research staff and support the first phase of preclinical research milestones.
EpiVario’s proof-of-concept has already been established in animals. Research on ACSS2 knockdown mice, conducted by EpiVario co-founders Philipp Mews, Ph.D., and Shelley Berger, Ph.D., was published in Nature in June of 2017. The Company plans to begin its Phase 1 study in 2020.
“We are thrilled to raise this first seed round from angel investors and are excited to continue our research to develop an effective therapeutic for PTSD and other memory-related disorders,” said Thomas Kim, CEO of EpiVario. “We are seeing an increasing number of PTSD diagnoses, particularly within the military, yet we continue to lack an effective treatment. We look forward to continuing our research in an effort to reduce the effects of memory-related conditions, which have an extreme detrimental impact on the quality of life for both patients and their loved ones.”
“Our early research is the output of our co-founder, Philipp Mews, Ph.D., who graduated from my lab and is currently a post-doctoral researcher at Mount Sinai. Dr. Mews is an exceptional scientist who discovered that ACSS2 is critical to fueling histone acetylation and affecting the memory formation and reconsolidation that is the root cause of PTSD, and also drug and alcohol addiction. Targeting this ASCC2 gene is core to our strategy,” said Shelley Berger, Ph.D., Daniel S. Och University Professor at University of Pennsylvania, and co-founder of EpiVario.
There are currently 26 million people living with PTSD in the United States and 296 million worldwide, and it is estimated that eight percent of the U.S. population experiences PTSD at some point during their lifetime. The U.S. government spends an estimated $2 billion annually to help treat PTSD in the veteran population, and the global market for PTSD treatment is expected to reach nearly $10.7 billion by 2026.
Current PTSD treatments are focused on targets that include the NK1 receptor, prohormones, or the serotonin–dopamine activity modulator, but have failed to show real efficacy, only minimizing frequency and severity of symptoms. By targeting the ACSS2 gene, EpiVario hopes to find a more effective means of treating memory-related disorders.
“There is an urgent need for new approaches that target mechanisms that cause intrusive traumatic memories,” explained Rachel Yehuda, Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience Director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “I have seen firsthand how PTSD can disrupt the daily lives of those who suffer from it and feel that we need to fully explore every avenue that presents an opportunity to reduce its impact, as well as the impact of other trauma-related diseases.”
EpiVario will be attending the 37th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference from January 7-10, 2019 in San Francisco. To set up a meeting, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or through our website at www.epivario.com.
PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can develop as a response to experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, such as interpersonal violence, combat, or a life-threatening accident or natural disaster. Core features of PTSD include re-experiencing symptoms (i.e., intrusive memories, flashbacks, and nightmares), avoidance of reminders of the trauma, negative thoughts and feelings (e.g., amnesia for aspects of the trauma, anhedonia, withdrawal, exaggerated self-blame), and increased arousal (i.e., insomnia, irritability, poor concentration, hypervigilance). The severity of PTSD symptoms can intensify through cycles of memory recall and reconsolidation. Psychiatric comorbidities, including depression and alcohol and substance use disorders, are common, and PTSD can heighten the risk of suicidal behavior.
EpiVario is an early-stage drug discovery and development company that targets a wide range of memory-related psychiatric disorders, including PTSD, Alzheimer’s, and alcohol and drug addiction. The Company’s novel approach targets memory formation at the source of the disease, preventing the creation and reconsolidation of traumatic memories. Core to EpiVario is administering its drug in conjunction with psychotherapy, where a negative or traumatic memory is intentionally re-lived, with the goal of disassociating the stress linked to the original traumatic event. EpiVario is a startup company originally founded at the Penn Center for Innovation. For more information visit https://www.epivario.com
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