Irish-founded Aer Therapeutics raises $36m for COPD treatment

14 Apr 2023

Prof John Fahy. Image: Aer Therapeutics

Founded by researchers based in UCD and San Francisco, Aer Therapeutics is developing a novel drug to help COPD patients breathe easier.

Aer Therapeutics, an Irish-founded biopharmaceutical spin-out developing treatments for lung disease, has announced the close of a $36m Series A funding round today (14 April).

Headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, Aer was founded by Dubliner Prof John Fahy from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and Prof Stefan Oscarson from the School of Chemistry at University College Dublin (UCD).

The research-based spin-out is developing a novel small molecule mucolytic drug that, when inhaled, is designed to liquefy mucus plugs in the lungs of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

An estimated 5m people who suffer from COPD in the US have a mucus plug-high disease subtype. Conventional COPD treatments such as bronchodilators and supplemental oxygen do not work to remove obstructions in the airway caused by mucus plugs.

To address this, Fahy and Oscarson have developed the AER-01 drug in collaboration with Prof Anne Marie Healy’s pharmaceutical technology laboratory at Trinity College Dublin. Aer now plans to initiate phase 1 of its first-in-human clinical trial of AER-01 in mid-2023.

Fahy explained that studies using CT lung scans confirm mucus plugs are highly prevalent in COPD patients. Those with a high mucus plug burden have lower lung function, increased frequency of exacerbations, diminished quality of life and increased risk of mortality.

“These findings provide a basis to specifically treat and remove mucus plugs as a strategy to improve lung health for COPD patients,” Fahy said.

“COPD is a complex disease and one-size-fits-all treatment approaches are not likely to work. The use of CT imaging in the clinical development for AER-01 will help ensure that treatment is targeted to those patients most likely to benefit from an effective mucolytic.”

The latest funding was received from a syndicate of leading life science industry investors, including Canaan, OrbiMed and Hatteras Venture Partners.

Oscarson recently won the overall prize at the NovaUCD Innovation Award for his research.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic