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Superman actor’s fund backs Irish business duo


Funding came from the foundation set up in memory of Christopher Reeve

Funding came from the foundation set up in memory of Christopher Reeve

Funding came from the foundation set up in memory of Christopher Reeve

A biotech start-up co-founded by two University College Cork (UCC) graduates has raised $5m (£3.7m) in a second funding round to develop new therapeutics for epilepsy, spinal cord injuries, and other neurodegenerative conditions.

The financing was raised from a group of new and existing investors that included the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which was set up by the late former Superman actor and his wife.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Axonis Therapeutics which was co-founded by Cork-born Dr Shane Hegarty and Dr Joanna Stanicka — raised $4m (£2.9m) last year, from a number of investors, some of whom participated in its recent round together with four VC firms and spinal cord injury foundation Spinal Research.

Mr Hegarty, the firm’s chief scientific officer, who has been based in the US since 2017, said the firm will look to raise a larger financing round next year once it has more research milestones and intellectual properties under its belt.

Dr Stanicka and Mr Hegarty, whose background is in neuroscience and Parkinson’s disease research, co-founded the business along with three others, including Bob Yant, an advocate for spinal cord regeneration research, and Dr Corey Goodman, a former president of Pfizer’s biotherapeutics division.

Mr Hegarty said: “Our aim is to revive neurons and restore control in the lives of patients and their families. Neurological disorders are complex but commonly share three problems: brain cell death, lack of neuron regeneration, and misfiring of neuron circuits, which cause life-long disabilities.

“Our pipeline of neuron-reviving therapeutics aims to enable an internal ability within brain cells to resist degeneration, restore balanced activity, and regenerate. Hopefully, we can transform the lives of millions of people suffering from incurable neurological disorders.

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“Ultimately, we’d like to Initial Public Offering with a range of clinical therapies, and a pipeline of more development, after applying our screening platforms to other central nervous system disorders. Over the next few months, we’ll add four more people to our team of 10 full-time staff, who work with consulting experts and a few interns.”

The Reeve Foundation has two Irish board members, including Mark Pollock, who is from Northern Ireland.