Stalicla announced the successful closing of a $17.4m Series B funding round as deal-making interest stirs in the central nervous system disorder space.

“In the current environment, we see this [financing round] as a huge success, but we’re targeting a much larger round in Q3 2024 with the involvement of large venture capital funds,” says Stalicla CEO Lynn Durham in an exclusive interview with Pharmaceutical Technology.

Stalicla aims to use the extra funds to launch a Phase III substance use disorder (SUD) study for its STP7 mGluR5 Negative Allosteric Modulator (mGluR5 NAM) platform in 2025. The US National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institutes of Health are supporting Stalicla’s development of STP7.

Stalicla acquired the therapy through an in-licensing agreement with Novartis in January 2023. In this deal, the Swiss company acquired the worldwide rights for studies using the STP7 platform for SUD, neurodevelopmental disorders, and other indications in exchange for upfront fees and equity, development and commercial milestones of up to $270m, and royalties on sales.

“STP7 (mavoglurant) is attracting a lot of attention because it’s an advanced central nervous system (CNS) disease asset,” says Durham, explaining that the pharmaceutical industry has seen an increased interest in the CNS space.

“There are several large venture funds who are interested in exploring and developing the STP7 platform right now,” she adds.

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Pharmaceutical development for CNS disorders has seen a rise in deals in 2023. In April 2023, Johnson and Johnson bulked up their CNS pipeline through a licence and development agreement with Pipeline Therapeutics, acquiring PIPE-307 to treat nervous system disorders. The pharma giant paid Pipeline $50m upfront and agreed to pay up to $1bn in future clinical, regulatory, and commercial milestones as well as royalties. Furthermore, in September 2023, Pharmanovia announced the acquisition of 11 of Sanofi’s CNS therapies.

Stalicla is also using the funds to scale up its management team and further its autism spectrum disorder (ASD) programmes. The biotech is investigating STP1, a fixed dose combination of PDE4/3 inhibitor (ibudilast) and NKCC1 antagonist (bumetanide), for ASD-Phenotype 1. It is also exploring its candidate STP2 (SFX-01), a stabilised synthetic form of sulforaphane, for ASD-Phenotype 2. Durham says that with the additional capital, STP1 should be entering Phase II trials in Q3 2024.

In a financing round later this year, Stalicla aims to raise $65m to take the company through its upcoming readouts and a potential event for investors, says Durham.