Cajal Neuroscience Launches with $96 Million to Transform Target and Drug Discovery in NeurodegenerationNovember 29, 2022
Cajal aims to accelerate neurodegeneration drug discovery by enabling target discovery and validation at unprecedented scale
Team combines expertise in neuroscience, computational biology, high-throughput functional genomics and advanced microscopy
Financing led by The Column Group and Lux Capital
SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Cajal Neuroscience, a biotechnology company integrating human genetics, functional genomics and advanced microscopy to discover novel targets and therapeutics for neurodegeneration, launched today with the completion of a $96 million Series A financing. Cajal is uniquely focused on the mechanistic, spatial and temporal complexity of neurodegeneration, integrating deep expertise in neuroscience, neuroanatomy and computational biology with state-of-the-art technologies for high-throughput functional validation. The financing was led by The Column Group and Lux Capital, with additional participation from Two Sigma Ventures, Bristol Myers Squibb, Evotec, Alexandria Venture Investments, Dolby Family Ventures and other investors.
“We’ve all seen the challenges that face drug discovery in neurodegeneration. Cajal was founded to meet those challenges head-on by convening some of the best minds in the field and integrating a suite of cutting-edge technologies to identify and advance therapies for neurodegeneration in a completely new way. I truly believe our approach can revolutionize neurodegeneration drug discovery by understanding disease mechanisms with spatial and temporal resolution at unprecedented scale,” said Ignacio Muñoz-Sanjuán, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer at Cajal.
“We want to get to the ground truth of neurodegenerative diseases. Cajal was started from grassroots, bringing together an incredible team of scientists, advisors and investors who share the long-term vision of building foundational systems to explore new pathways and targets and making a difference for patients suffering from neurodegeneration,” said Rob Hershberg, M.D., Ph.D., Co-founder and Executive Chairman of the Board at Cajal.
Inspired by the pioneering work of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, whose discoveries on the structural and functional organization of the brain became the foundation of modern neuroscience, Cajal seeks to transform the field of neurodegeneration by revealing the complex and dynamic mechanisms driving disease. Cajal’s platform combines state-of-the-art approaches and technologies, including integrative human genetics and multi-omics, highly multiplexed functional genomics and industrialized whole brain imaging. Through this approach, Cajal is systematically validating the thousands of targets implicated in diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and creating a comprehensive understanding of neurodegeneration that reveals how, where and when different mechanisms contribute to disease.
“The legendary neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal said that all outstanding work, in art as well as science, results from immense zeal applied to a great idea. That’s precisely why we raced to fund this team,” said Josh Wolfe, Co-founder and Managing Partner at Lux Capital. “When you get the rare combination of the leading scientific minds in neuroscience teaming up to work with cutting-edge visualization, sequencing and computational techniques, and to apply a never-before taken approach to discovering targets and drugs for neurodegenerative disease, you don’t walk slowly toward it — you sprint for your life.”
Cajal’s leadership team includes world-class scientists and experienced biotechnology entrepreneurs who bring scientific rigor, drug development expertise and commitment to advancing therapies for neurodegenerative diseases.
- Ignacio Muñoz-Sanjuán, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, joins from CHDI Foundation, where he was Vice President of Translational Biology and led the development of numerous programs in Huntington’s disease across target validation, drug discovery and translational development. He is President and Co-founder of Factor-H, a non-profit foundation dedicated to improving the lives of Latin American families afflicted with Huntington’s disease.
- Ian Peikon, Ph.D., Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, is a Venture Partner at Lux Capital. Ian previously was part of the founding team at Kallyope, where he established the target discovery platform and helped advance multiple programs now in clinical development.
- Andrew Dervan, M.D., MBA, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer, previously led cell therapy business development at Celgene/Bristol Myers Squibb, where he oversaw the execution of numerous partnerships and also held roles in translational medicine. Andrew is a practicing clinical geneticist at the University of Washington where he evaluates patients with genetic conditions, including adult-onset neurological diseases.
- Julie Harris, Ph.D., Vice President, Preclinical Biology, joins from the Allen Institute for Brain Science, where she led teams to establish reference brain atlases widely used in the field, including high-resolution maps of brain connectivity and, most recently, of selectively vulnerable cell types, networks and brain regions in Alzheimer’s disease.
Cajal is supported by an experienced and accomplished Board of Directors:
- Rob Hershberg, M.D., Ph.D., Co-founder and Executive Chairman, Cajal Neuroscience; Chief Executive Officer, HilleVax; previously Chief Scientific Officer and Executive Vice President and Head of Business Development & Global Alliances at Celgene
- Susan Hockfield, Ph.D., President Emerita and Professor of Neuroscience, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Tim Kutzkey, Ph.D., Managing Partner, The Column Group
- Josh Wolfe, Co-founder and Managing Partner, Lux Capital
Cajal’s scientific co-founders include leading neuroscientists that bring together disciplines across genetics, molecular and cellular biology, and functional neuroanatomy:
- Huda Zoghbi, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics, Molecular and Human Genetics, Neurology and Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine; Director, Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital; Investigator, HHMI
- Anthony Zador, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Neuroscience, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
- Charles Zuker, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Neuroscience, Columbia University; Investigator, HHMI
Along with its scientific co-founders, Cajal’s Scientific Advisory Board is composed of:
- Richard Hargreaves, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Neuroscience Thematic Research Center, Bristol Myers Squibb
- David Holtzman, M.D., Professor and Chair of Neurology, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
- Martin Kampmann, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of California San Francisco
- Jay Shendure, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Genome Sciences, University of Washington; Investigator, HHMI
About Cajal Neuroscience
Cajal Neuroscience is a biotechnology company committed to discovering novel therapeutics for neurodegeneration by leveraging a powerful platform designed to reveal the mechanistic, spatial and temporal complexity of disease at unprecedented scale. Cajal combines a suite of state-of-the-art approaches and technologies, including integrative human genetics and multi-omics, high-throughput functional genomics and advanced microscopy, to accelerate neurodegeneration target and drug discovery. Cajal is headquartered in Seattle, WA.
Ten Bridge Communications