Our mission is to bring forward meaningful drugs that work at the root of insidious diseases by modulating the mitochondria directly to attenuate disease progression.
A key thesis to our approach lies in the fact that modulating mitochondria function by increased energy expenditure results in: improved cellular function, improved biomarkers and a reduction in disease state. This has been shown repeatedly in models of energy expenditure. With small increases in energy expenditure, data now exists to show improvements in cognition with Alzheimer’s Disease (Liu, D. 2014), reduction in symptoms associated with Huntington’s Disease (Duan, W 2003), decrease in reactive oxygen species associated with ALS, improve lipid profiles affecting diabetes/heart disease (Perry, RJ 2013) and neuro-protection in ischemic stroke (Pettigrew, C 2012). Overall, increased energy expenditure via mitochondrial regulation can produce disease-modifying affects.
Robert Alonso, Founder & CEO – has 25 years of experience with both big pharmaceutical companies (Merck, Roche) and small biotech companies (Yaupon/Ceptaris). Most recently Mr Alonso successfully founded Yaupon/Ceptaris Therapeutics (formely known as Yaupon) where he raised over $40 million in venture capital, steered the lead program through phase III testing and filing of an NDA (Approval was received in 2013). Ceptaris was sold in 2013 to Actellion Pharmaceuticals. Mr. Alonso is a seasoned executive who has completed over numerous licensing and other business transactions, including raising venture capital and negotiating transactions worth over $500 million. He has brought several drugs through the Investigational New Drug (IND) process and one through a successful completion of a New Drug Application (NDA). Mr. Alonso is the inventor on 6 patents and has an MBA in Entrepreneurship from Babson College.
John G. Geisler, PhD, Founder & Chief Scientific Officer – Dr. Geisler comes with 25+ years of research experience with a consistent pharmacological focus of trying to work at the root of problems; 15-years focused on metabolic drug discovery for Pfizer, Isis, JnJ. Dr. Geisler has expertise in mitochondrial energy expenditure from years of attempting to partition lipids to restore insulin sensitivity and reduce the comorbidities associated with the “over-nutritional phenotype”. From this work, stemmed a broader understanding of new mitochondrial targeted applications, and significant gaps of pharmacological interventions for insidious movement disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. Dr. Geisler is the author of over 50 papers & abstracts, and the co-inventor on a number of patents. Dr. Geisler holds a Ph.D. in Mammalian Genetics from University of Tennessee, conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL), with a dissertation on the characterization of a novel muscle protein with dystrophin-like characteristics. His fellowship at Yale University, focused on the protective effects of E2 related to diabetic sexual dimorphism, by studying islet biology, physiology and whole-body flux of male diabetic models, supplemented with E2, which resolved diabetes.
Robert Elfont MD, Acting Chief Medical Officer – Dr. Elfont has over fifteen years of experience in the life sciences industry. He has led clinical programs in a wide range of neurologic, psychiatric, and immunologic indications, and across all phases of development, from pre-Phase 1 translational medicine to Phase 4 post-approval. Dr. Elfont has held medical director and senior medical director positions at Pfizer and Teva Neuroscience. Dr. Elfont is a diplomat of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, having completed a neurology residency and a fellowship in neuroimmunology and neurovirology at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Elfont earned his MD and PhD in neuroanatomy from the University of Rochester and received additional post-graduate training in physiological psychology at the University of Cambridge.
Peter Crooks PhD, Senior Vice President Chemistry (part time) – is Professor and Chairman, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Dr. Crooks has 35-years of experience and is a world-renowned medicinal chemist with over 200 patents to his name and over 500 publications. Dr. Crooks has also established or cofounded six drug discovery companies, including being the co-founder, with Mr. Alonso in Yaupon Therapeutics/Ceptaris. Dr. Crooks has a Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry and is a past chairman of the Drug Design and Discovery Section of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.
Norman D. Huebert, PhD, Vice President Preclinical ADME – Dr. Huebert has an expertise Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics in small molecules and prodrugs with 30+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry. He has worked for large pharma companies (Aventis, Janssen) as well as in biotech (3DP) and has experience in both small and large molecules. He was head of Discovery ADME (Springhouse) at Janssen Pharmaceutical and Head of Pharmacokinetics and Analytical Chemistry at 3DP. He has experience in looking at PK and pK/PD relationships in many therapeutic areas including oncology, neurology, psychiatry, enterology, metabolic diseases, analgesia, pulmonary, etc. He has authored over 40 papers and presentations in the field and contributed to the approval of 7 drugs by various regulatory bodies. Since 2015 he has been consulting with small pharmaceutical companies to help understand the PK and PK/PD relationships. He is also an Adjunct Professor in Pharmacokinetics in the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University. He obtained his B.SC. (Hon) in Biochemistry and PhD in Biological Psychiatry from the University of Saskatchewan.
Initial early investors include:
• Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) – Ben Franklin Technology Partners is one of the nation’s longest-running technology-based economic development programs. For more than 31 years, BFTP has provided both early-stage and established companies with funding, business and technical expertise and access to a network of innovative, expert resources.
• YT Angels – YT Angels are a group of high net worth investors interested in working with previously successful entrepreneurs in the area of biotechnology and technology innovation.
Scientific Advisors & Collaborators
Dr. Hersch is a leading HD clinician and clinical investigator. He co-chaired the Huntington’s Study Group (HSG) for 15 years, served on the national board of trustees for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA) where he founded and directed the Center of Excellence Program. Dr. Hersch has been the PI for the NCCIH sponsored phase II and phase III multi-center trials of creatine in HD (CREST-HD, CREST-E), under his IND (IND#69735); was PI of the NINDS sponsored multi-center trial of phenylbutyrate (IND#66023) for HD; has an IND for developing GM1 as a therapeutic for HD, and has participated in the leadership or conduct of many HSG studies.
Dr. Brand’s scientific research focuses on cellular energy transformations, particularly the balance between allocation of energy for growth, repair and fat storage on the one hand, and inefficiencies to prevent damaging free radical production and disease on the other. He has made major contributions to understanding the mechanisms of energy transformation, and in understanding the mechanisms of energetic inefficiency and free radical production, and their roles in evolution, physiology, and the diseases of aging.
Dr. Brand has published over 330 scientific papers, which have been cited more than 30,000 times by other scientists. His research has been recognized by awards of the Keilin Medal of the Biochemical Society and a senior scholarship from the Ellison Medical Foundation, and by his election as a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (UK). He serves on the editorial board of several scientific journals (Aging Cell, Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, Cell Metabolism, Physiological and Biochemical Zoology) and the scientific advisory boards of Mitochon Pharmaceuticals and Ogenx Therapeutics.
Current Research Projects
Dr. Brand currently works on regulation of cellular energy metabolism and the mitochondrial production of free radicals (reactive oxygen species; ROS). To investigate the regulation of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation within cells, his laboratory has established improved plate-based assays of oxygen consumption rate and extracellular acidification rate, and fully quantitative fluorescence microscopy measurements of plasma membrane and mitochondrial membrane potential. They have used these technologies to understand mitochondrial function in cells and tissues and the relationships between rate of oxidative phosphorylation, coupling efficiency and radical production in aging and in a range of age-related pathologies. Dr. Brand’s laboratory has established the specific sites and regulation of free radical generation in the electron transport chain in mitochondria and cells using novel endogenous reporters, and screened chemical libraries to discover novel suppressors of ROS formation that do not inhibit energy metabolism; these compounds hold great promise as therapeutics against previously unexplored targets to slow the onset of aging and its diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, sarcopenia, osteoporosis and dementia.