Location: Elm Grove
Founders: Kirkwood Pritchard and Stephen Naylor
Founded: August 2016
Product: Treatment for stroke and MS.
Goal: Raise $1.75 million seed round for pre-clinical trials
Experience: Pritchard is a professor of surgery, vice chair of research for the department of surgery and director of the Translational Vascular Biology Program at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Naylor has a Ph.D. in chemistry and biochemistry from Cambridge and has worked at various startups in the biotech sector since 2000.
KYC. Those three letters, which sound similar to a fast-food restaurant name, are the moniker for a therapy developed by a professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin that could help reverse the effects of stroke and multiple sclerosis.
Kirkwood Pritchard, who developed KYC with his team, described it as “a novel tripeptide that inhibits myeloperoxidase production of toxic oxygen radicals.” The drug has been shown to dramatically decrease, and speed recovery from, brain injury in trials in mice.
When Pritchard and his investigators saw the impact of the tripeptide – a 56 percent reduction in stroke lesions in animals – they knew they had to commercialize it. So he brought experienced biotechnology startup executive Stephen Naylor on board and the pair established ReNeuroGen LLC.
“He is a rare combination of bona fide scientific investigator and business entrepreneur,” Pritchard, chief scientific officer, said of Naylor, chief executive officer. “Without someone like him, we were spinning our wheels.”
KYC, which interferes with a white blood cell called neutrophil that causes inflammation, has also proven effective in reversing the effects of traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases, so there is potential to expand its impact.
“With KYC, we have the potential to block 80 to 90 percent of the secondary brain injury that takes place in any neurodegenerative disease. I’m very excited about it,” Pritchard said.
“When you look at the number of different disease indications that neutrophils are involved in, it’s somewhere like 200 or 300 disease states,” Naylor said.
ReNeuroGen has so far been funded by SBIR grants from the National Institutes of Health, and Pritchard conducts experiments in the lab at MCW. Naylor is now working to raise a $1.75 million seed round, expected to close by the first quarter of 2019, that would bring ReNeuroGen through its pre-clinical trials over the next several years.
“I’ve been out on the road trying to attract investment dollars, primarily through angel investors,” Naylor said. “Most venture capital groups are really wary of very early-stage companies, particularly drug development companies” because of the long timeline.
Ultimately, the hope is to get FDA approval for an Investigational New Drug so ReNeuroGen can complete clinical trials.