$10 Million in Private Funding Boosts UR Spinoff’s Stroke Research

Oct. 2, 2009
Berislav Zlokovic, M.D., Ph.D.

ZZ Biotech, a Rochester biotechnology firm founded by neuroscientist Berislav Zlokovic, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Rochester Medical Center, has successfully completed its second equity offering of $10 million.

The new funding is aimed at producing a new class of compounds to treat stroke, which is the leading cause of long-term disability in the nation. The funding will also be used to conduct initial clinical studies scheduled to begin next year.

Previously, Zlokovic’s team discovered that a compound known as activated protein C or APC may hold promise in treating stroke. Further research in the laboratory has shown that an APC variant holds great promise for treating the condition. In laboratory tests, the new compound offers the brain-saving capability of APC but with a greatly reduced risk of bleeding, an important concern in patients who have had a stroke.

Laureate Pharma Inc., a New Jersey-based biopharmaceutical development and protein production company, will produce the APC variant under “good manufacturing practice,” developing a high-quality, carefully controlled manufacturing process to assure the safety and purity of the compound. GMP processing is a crucial step in the life of any compound as it goes from a laboratory curiosity to a potential drug used in people.

“This is tremendously exciting for us,” said Zlokovic, who is director of the Center for Neurodegenerative and Vascular Brain Disorders and dean’s professor in the Department of Neurosurgery. “We are very thankful for the support of our investors, who are crucial to our efforts to test this potential new therapy for stroke beyond the laboratory to the point where testing in people becomes likely. Ultimately, this is about improving the lives of patients, and this is a big step in that direction.”

Investors in the second round of ZZ Biotech’s equity offering include affiliates of Selim Zilkha, who has been a long time supporter of Zlokovic’s work. Another company founded by Zlokovic, ZZ Alztech, is devoted to developing new compounds aimed at treating Alzheimer’s disease. Both ZZ Biotech and ZZ Alztech were formed in 2007 and were principally owned by Socratech, the original University spinoff built around Zlokovic’s research and formed in 2001, prior to the offerings. The University of Rochester holds an equity interest in all three companies. 

Zlokovic has been widely recognized for his work. Earlier this year he received the Potamkin Prize for Research in Pick’s, Alzheimer's, and Related Diseases from the American Academy of Neurology. Two years ago, he was awarded the MetLife Foundation Award for Medical Research in Alzheimer’s disease, a significant award available to scientists who work on Alzheimer’s disease. The year before that, he was honored by the Institute for the Study of Aging and by Elan Pharmaceuticals for his work. He has also received a Senator Jacob Javits Award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and a MERIT Award from the National Institute on Aging.