Posted on Oct 06, 2020, 1 p.m.
Within America, around 37 million people are living with kidney disease, which translates to about 1 in 7 adults. A startup hopes to change that, launching with a $51 million Series A round of investment and a 2 pronged approach to completely transform kidney disease.
Walden Biosciences was founded to reverse the progression of kidney disease for a largely underserved patient population, and with a positive regulatory environment and promising science, the experienced 12 person company hopes to be hitting the clinic soon. They will be largely focused on kidney disease “because that's where we see the opportunity and where we see patients that actually have no real options, or at least in end-stage renal disease, it's dialysis or transplantation,” Alex Duncan who is the chief scientific officer said, adding that the disease also carries a high risk of mortality.
“Kidney disease is a public health crisis and there is an urgent need to develop innovative therapies that directly target the disease and provide an alternative to dialysis or transplant,” said Blaine McKee, Ph.D., President and CEO of Walden Biosciences. “Walden seeks to revolutionize the field of nephrology and we are relentlessly focused on changing the way patients with all forms of kidney disease are treated.”
The company will be taking a 2 pronged approach via small molecules and antibodies. One approach targets soluble urokinase plasminogen activating receptors, which are proteins that signal kidney disease, with the goal to reduce inflammation and boost kidney function. The other approach is designed to help preserve podocytes’ kidney cells that aid in filtration by activating the dynamin enzymes that maintain the structure of the kidneys’ filtration apparatus.
"There are very strong disease associations between the levels of suPAR and acute kidney injury, chronic kidney disease,” said Duncan.
“We've taken a bottom-up reductionist approach to really try and understand the role of individual components, but also a top-down holistic approach,” Duncan said. “The situation really with the kidneys is this structure is absolutely unique as an organ and it has both the mechanical as well as the biochemical functions.”
“People with higher levels of suPAR actually have a worse prognosis for COVID ... so that's one area that we may look at,” Duncan said. But for now, the company will be using the funding which came from Arch Venture Partners and UCB Ventures to get both of their programs to the clinic and add new members to the company team.
“Our objective is to totally change the face of renal diseases. Historically, they would potentially slow the progression, manage hypertension, glucose levels. We’re quite ambitious here. We're looking to completely transform the treatment—not just slow it, but reverse it,” said Blaine who adds that while the funding is an important milestone, “we think it’s just the beginning.
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