Karuna Therapeutics, a Boston-based biotech startup, said Monday it has raised $68 million in venture capital to advance clinical development of a radically different drug for schizophrenia.
The sum is on top of $42 million that Karuna, a privately held 10-year-old firm, raised last year for development of the experimental medicine, which company officials hope might cause fewer side effects than the schizophrenia drugs on the market.
The drug, called KarXT, is being evaluated in mid-stage clinical trials as a potential treatment for acute psychosis in patients with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a chronic and complex brain disorder that causes hallucinations, delusions and disorganized thoughts. It afflicts about 1 percent of the population, or more than 3 million Americans, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
“Patients living with schizophrenia often must choose among treatment options that only partly address their disabling psychotic and cognitive symptoms, often with undesirable side effects,” said Dr. Steve Paul, chief executive of Karuna. “Karuna’s mission is to deliver a more effective and better-tolerated treatment for this large and underserved patient population.”
Other antipsychotic drugs on the market, including Zyprexa, Seroquel, and Abilify, block dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain, according to Paul. But those medications can sometimes have unpleasant side effects, including weight gain.
KarXT uses a different mechanism. It targets something known as “muscarinic receptors” to reduce symptoms of psychosis.
The latest financing round was led by ARCH Venture Partners, with participation from Fidelity Management & Research Company, Eventide Asset Management, Pivotal bioVenture Partners, Partner Fund Management, Wellcome Trust, Sands Capital, Alexandria Venture Investments, and Puretech Health, the clinical-stage biopharma company that founded Karuna.Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org