Biotechnology

Aer Therapeutics raises $36 million to treat lung disease

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Aer Therapeutics, a University College Dublin (UCD) and University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) biopharmaceutical spin-out company developing a new inhalation treatment for muco-obstructive lung disease, has announced the close of a $36 million Series A financing round.

Funding was received from a syndicate of leading life sciences industry investors, including Canaan, OrbiMed, and Hatteras Venture Partners.

Proceeds from the financing will be used to advance the development of AER-01, the company’s new small-molecule inhaled mucolytic drug designed to dilute the mucus plugs in the lungs of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Aer Therapeutics plans to begin its first phase 1 human clinical trial of AER-01 in mid-2023.

Aer Therapeutics, headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, was co-founded by John Fahy, UCSF, originally from Dublin, Ireland, and Stefan Oscarson, from the UCD School of Chemistry.

New mucolytic treatment

Fahy’s lab at UCSF developed AER-01 with Oscarson’s glycochemistry lab at UCD in collaboration with the pharmaceutical technology lab Anne Marie Healy at Trinity College Dublin. The combined expertise of these laboratories in mucus biology, glycochemistry, inhaled drug formulation, drug delivery, and lung imaging, supported by a development grant from the National Institutes of Health, underlies the novel AER-01 technology.

“We are pleased to introduce Aer Therapeutics as a company dedicated to providing therapeutic solutions to COPD patients with severe airway obstruction caused by mucus plugs. Our scientific founders led the pioneering studies that identified the mucus plug as a key mechanism of disease in COPD, and their laboratories teamed up to discover AER-01 as a new mucolytic treatment. Aer will continue to leverage this expertise in the development of AER-01 and other therapeutic candidates for the treatment of muco obstructive pulmonary disease,” said Jim Shaffer, president and CEO, Aer Therapeutics.

It is estimated that about five million COPD patients in the US have the high mucus plug disease subtype. Conventional COPD treatments such as bronchodilators and supplemental oxygen do not treat airway obstruction caused by mucus plugs.

Recent advances in understanding the biology of the mucus plug and new methods for measuring the mucus plug using computed tomography (CT) have created opportunities to advance the development of drugs intended to eliminate the mucus plug. Aer Therapeutics is taking advantage of this new opportunity to advance AER-01 for COPD.

Slime plug

“Studies using CT scans of the lungs confirm that mucus plugging is very common in COPD patients and patients with a high burden of mucus plugs have lower lung function, increased frequency of exacerbations, decreased quality of life, and increased risk of all-cause death. These findings provide the basis for specifically treating and removing mucus plugs as a strategy to improve lung health for COPD patients,” said Fahy.

“COPD is a complex disease and a one-size-fits-all treatment approach is unlikely to work. The use of CT imaging in clinical development for AER-01 will help ensure that treatment is targeted to patients who are most likely to benefit from an effective mucolytic.”

Oscarson said: “Today’s announcement is a very important milestone for the AER Therapeutics team. These are exciting times for me, when after decades of academic research involving drug and vaccine development with colleagues at UCD, UCSF and TCD, to see a major drug candidate move into human clinical trials. AER-01 mucolytic drug has the potential to meet a wide range of clinical needs and make a difference to many lives.”

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