Providence, R.I., July 14, 2016 – The Slater Technology Fund today announced that it has committed $500,000 in seed funding to support the launch of MindImmune Therapeutics, Inc., a Rhode Island-based drug discovery venture that aims to establish a leadership position in targeting the immune system to treat diseases of the central nervous system (CNS). Seed funding will support the company in expanding its collaboration with the George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rhode Island and in establishing initial operations within its College of Pharmacy.
MindImmune is developing first-in-class drugs that target the immune system to treat CNS diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease, pain, and psychiatric disorders. It is increasingly clear that the central nervous system and the immune system are intimately integrated. Consequently, immune system dysfunction is a critical, often causative, factor in brain disease. Preventing neuroinflammation promises breakthroughs in the treatment of brain disease, much as targeting immune activity is revolutionizing the treatment of cancers. MindImmune scientists are at the forefront in discovering the therapeutic opportunities in targeting the immune system to treat brain disease.
The founding team brings together veteran CNS drug discovery scientists and longtime collaborators Stevin Zorn, Ph.D., Frank Menniti, Ph.D., Robert Nelson, Ph.D., and Brian Campbell, Ph.D., all previously employed at Pfizer Inc., one of the world’s premier innovative biopharmaceutical companies. Prior to founding MindImmune, Drs. Zorn, Nelson and Campbell were employed at the N.J.-based operations of H. Lundbeck A/S, a Copenhagen-based global pharmaceutical company specializing in psychiatric and neurological disorders, where they led the development of a first-in-industry neuroinflammation group. Dr. Menniti previously served as co-founder and chief scientific officer of Mnemosyne Pharmaceuticals, now Luc Therapeutics Inc., a drug discovery venture focused on neuropsychiatric disorders.
MindImmune is being launched in collaboration with the newly established George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience at URI, where the company will be favorably positioned to leverage the neuroscience resources and research infrastructure being developed under the leadership of Paula Grammas, Ph.D., the Institute’s recently appointed inaugural director. In that connection, the university has committed office and lab space to accommodate the company’s initial operations, and the MindImmune founders have received adjunct faculty appointments.
“The tremendous burden of brain disease in human suffering, its high cost to society and the paucity of new treatments are contributing to an emerging health crisis. Research advances over the past decade illuminate the critical importance of neuroinflammation as exacerbating or causing brain disease. This ‘missing link’ opens an entirely new area for therapeutic development, and MindImmune is well positioned with the domain expertise to bring forward innovative medicines to treat a range of neurodegenerative, neurological and psychiatric disorders,” said Stevin Zorn, Ph.D., president and CEO of MindImmune Therapeutics. “Toward this end, we are delighted to be forging a unique partnership with Rhode Island’s emerging neuroscience ecosystem, including Dr. Paula Grammas, director of the George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience, the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy, and the Slater Technology Fund.”
“MindImmune is a venture that evidences a strategy increasingly referred to as impact investment,” stated Richard G. Horan, senior managing director at the Slater Technology Fund. “On the one hand, there is the potential to achieve significant and positive impact, within the Ryan Institute at the University of Rhode Island, within R.I.’s innovation economy more generally considered, or within the field of neuroscience-based drug discovery. At the same time, the company represents a compelling investment with opportunity for significant upside potential. We are delighted to be working with the world-class team that has committed itself to this important endeavor.”
“Investments in research and education are absolutely critical in the search for drugs and therapies to combat these devastating neurological diseases,” said URI President David M. Dooley. “I commend and thank the Slater Fund for providing seed funding that will allow the University and MindImmune to collaborate more closely and to physically share space on the Kingston campus. This proximity can accelerate the innovative and groundbreaking work of the Ryan Institute and advance the goal of Rhode Island becoming a center of excellence in neurological research.”
About Slater Technology Fund
The Slater Technology Fund is an independently chartered economic development fund that operates in accord with best practices of venture capital investing, backing new ventures committed to basing and building businesses in Rhode Island. Leveraging state and federal funding, Slater focuses its resources on the support of entrepreneurs who have the vision, leadership and commitment to build impactful business enterprises. Slater typically invests at the inception stage in the development of a new venture, often based upon ideas and technologies originating in academic institutions and/or government research laboratories located within the region. In most cases, investments are premised upon the possibility of raising substantial follow-on financing, from venture capital investors or from strategic partners, with a view toward accelerating the generation of significant numbers of high-value, high-wage jobs over the intermediate to longer-term. For more information, visit www.slaterfund.com.