Escalier raises $19m to fund novel psoriasis pill

Andrew McConaghie

Escalier Biosciences, a privately-held biopharma company based in The Netherlands, has raised $19 million to help advance its pipeline.

The company, based in Nijmegen, is developing both oral and topical RORγt drug candidates for psoriasis and other autoimmune diseases.

The market for new psoriasis and related immunology treatments is currently experiencing huge growth, led by products such as Novartis’ Cosentyx. But most of these products are injected or infused, leaving the door open for a new oral or topical drug, which would be far more convenient for patients.

The financing round was completed by existing investors, New Science Ventures and BioGeneration Ventures and Escalier will use it to progress its compounds through human proof-of-concept studies. Forbion, one of the leading European life science venture capital firms, led the Series B financing.

The nuclear hormone receptor RORγt has emerged as the ‘master’ regulator of Th17 cell differentiation and the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as IL-17A and IL-17F. Increased production of these cytokines has been linked to the pathophysiology of psoriasis. Small molecule inhibitors of RORγt have been shown to reduce production of IL-17 in immune cells and are promising therapies for psoriasis and other autoimmune conditions.

Escalier expects its topical compound to enter the clinic in mid-2018.

“Escalier’s team has an impressive track record of developing novel compounds targeting diseases with significant unmet medical need,” stated Marco Boorsma, General Partner at Forbion, who will join Escalier’s board of directors. “We are excited to participate in this financing with New Science Ventures and BioGeneration Ventures and in supporting Escalier’s efforts to develop best-in-class drugs for the treatment of psoriasis and other autoimmune diseases.”

“RORγt is a validated target for psoriasis and other autoimmune disorders and our drug candidates have the potential to provide the desired efficacy and safety in psoriasis patients that is currently unavailable with other topical or oral drugs,” said Raju Mohan, PhD, CEO of Escalier and previously CEO of Forbion’s portfolio company Akarna Therapeutics. “We are incredibly fortunate to have such a supportive syndicate of investors who share our passion in developing novel therapies for challenging targets, such as “RORγt.”

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