Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company has purchased Disarm Therapeutics, a biotechnology startup founded by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Disarm Therapeutics was co-founded by Jeffrey Milbrandt, MD, PhD, and Aaron DiAntonio, MD, PhD, to speed the development of treatments for multiple neurodegenerative conditions such as MLS, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s.
Working with Washington University’s Office of Technology Management (OTM), Milbrandt and DiAntonio founded Disarm Therapeutics based on their discoveries involving SARM1, an enzyme in the body that triggers a type of nerve destruction occurring in almost all neurodegenerative diseases. The company was working to develop drugs that potentially could block SARM1. Such drugs could help millions of patients with debilitating nerve damage stemming from a variety of neurological diseases and injuries. The investors in Disarm Therapeutics were Atlas Venture Capital along with Lightstone Ventures and Abbvie Ventures.
Lilly made the acquisition with an upfront payment of $135 million. If future development, regulatory and commercial milestones are met, Disarm investors may be eligible for up to $1.2 billion in additional payments.
“Washington University’s Office of Technology Management played an important role in helping us get Disarm Therapeutics started,” Milbrandt said. “The guidance they provided, along with the expertise of the collegial and growing network of St Louis-based biopharmaceutical entrepreneurs, were essential to the successful creation of this new company.”
To help translate their discoveries into potential therapies for patients, Milbrandt and DiAntonio received funding from Washington University’s Leadership and Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (LEAP).
“Our experience in starting a company is a wonderful example of how the environment at Washington University facilitates partnerships between scientists and industry, with the goal of turning basic science discoveries into therapeutic advances.”
– Jeffrey Milbrandt, MD, PhD
Additional support came from BioSTL’s BioGenerator program. The researchers also collaborated with Confluence Discovery Technologies in the Cortex Innovation Community to strengthen the commercialization prospects of their technology.