GliaPharm braces to enter the clinical phase

The Geneva-based biotech startup is developing an innovative therapeutic approach to treat neurological and psychiatric disorders by targeting glial cells. With the success of its pre-clinical studies, the company is planning to launch the clinical phase next year. The receipt of the Innosuisse Certificate further affirms GliaPharm’s maturity.

Established in 2016 as an EPFL Spinoff, GliaPharm has developed a proprietary technology platform, GliaX, to identify drugs that target glial cells’ activity and brain energy metabolism. Glia cells are non-neuronal cells of the brain and nervous system that provide physical and metabolic support to neurons. Each glial cell performs specific jobs that keep the brain functioning.

GliaPharm ’s pioneering approach is to stimulate the neuroprotective action of glial cells to treat certain types of neurological and psychiatric disorders such as the GLUT1 Deficiency Syndrom, an orphan disease characterised by frequent epileptic seizures, neuromuscular and cognitive deficiencies. The disease is estimated to affect more than 300,000 people worldwide, yet no treatment exists to address it. The company is currently developing its lead molecule for this indication, and it has demonstrated efficacy in pre-clinical trials. As revealed by the co-founding team comprised of Pierre Magistretti (scientific founder), Ambroise Magistretti (Co-CEO), Sylvain Lengacher (Co-CEO) and Charles Finsterwald (CSO), GliapPharm is looking for additional funding to accelerate the clinical journey starting in 2023. The ongoing financing round seeks to raise CHF 7 million.

In addition to GLUT1 Deficiency Syndrom, the GliaX platform and the success of its lead candidate will pave the way for the development of new drugs for other indications such as Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and depression, which are highly prevalent worldwide. Through its in-house R&D laboratory and network with selective partners, GliaPharm is already offering the platform to support the development of clinical applications through mode of actions targeting glial cells.

Despite having business know-how from their additional roles, the team’s entrepreneurial experience and development have been further enriched with support from Innosuisse coaches. Pierre Comte, the lead coach, was particularly supportive, as acknowledged by the team. During the three-year Innosuisse coaching program, the team also got access to various coaches who provided business know-how in diverse fields and helped them to grow their network. Receiving the Innosuisse Certificate after the program demonstrates the company’s readiness for growth. During the next phase, GliaPharm will continue developing its lead molecule and enhancing its platform with innovative technologies.

Prior to participating in the Innosuisse coaching program, GliaPharm had benefitted from two Innosuisse grants supporting projects which led to the development of GliaX. Since then, the team has raised CHF 3.5 million and established several academic and industrial collaborations. The startup today employs nine people at its headquarters in Geneva.

Collaborating with Wyss Zurich on Alzheimer's disease treatments
To accelerate drug development toward other neurological indications, GliaPharm and the Wyss Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating discoveries in neuroscience are collaborating to develop new treatments for Alzheimer's disease. The startup will test the impact of its lead candidates in preclinical models of Alzheimer’s disease to advance the compounds towards the clinical stage. The team will also use the Wyss Center’s advanced imaging pipeline to analyze large volumes of brain tissue at high resolution. Comparison of treated and untreated brains at a cellular level will enable the team to identify clinically relevant biomarkers that could pave the way toward the development of molecules for clinical trials.

Photo L-R: Dr. Charles Finsterwald, Ambroise Magistretti, Prof. Pierre Magistretti, Dr. Sylvain Lengacher