Vasa Therapeutics raises $6M to develop drugs targeting heart failure

Steven Loeb · January 3, 2024 · Short URL:

The company will be starting phase one trials of its first drug in Q2 2024

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality and morbidity globally, accounting for more than 17 million deaths worldwide each year, a figure expected to reach over 23 million per year by the end of the decade. Not only that, but the long-term prognosis associated with heart failure is actually worse than all but a few cancers, with 50% mortality after four years. 

People are aware of the problem, as heart health beat out mental health and cancer as the top health concern in the US in a survey conducted release last year. 

Vasa Therapeutics is a company developing therapeutics that target pathophysiology of cardiovascular aging. That includes VS-041, the first potential personalized medicine-based treatment of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF).

The company will be able to enter the final stages of preclinical development for VS-041 thanks to $6 million seed funding, which it announced on Wednesday. The round, which was led by Orphinic Scientific SA and included participation from private investments funds NuFund Venture Group, SeedFolio, and others, was supplemented by $2.3 million in non-dilutive grant funding. 

Along with the new funding it was also revealed that Professor JarosÅ‚aw Leszczyszyn,  Orphinic's chairman of supervisory board, will be joining the board of directors at Vasa.

"We are excited to have led the seed financing for Vasa. The company's novel biomarker strategy can lead to a personalized medicine-based therapy for HFpEF, a highly heterogenous disease, for which the currently available drugs do not provide durable improvement," Adam Kruszewski, CEO of Orphinic, said in a statement, noting that the company also sees opportunities for the other Vasa assets, including sarcopenia, obesity, and peripheral artery disease.

Vasa, which has locations in California and Poland, deploys a drug discovery process that integrates the strategic identification of viable biological targets and the design and identification of small molecule or peptide therapeutics that are triaged through its drug discovery testing funnel. It does both in-house and with a network of strategic partnerships and international contract research organizations (CROs).

Currently, Vasa has three active preclinical programs, the first being VS-041, which the company says has shown reduction of cardiac fibrosis in a preclinical HFpEF model. It has also proven to inhibit release of signaling collagen fragments that mediate fibroinflammatory responses and are biomarkers of worse outcomes in HFpEF patients. The company is planning a phase 1 clinical trial of VS-041 in the second quarter of 2024.

The second program involves long acting apelin peptide analogs for combination treatment with incretins in obesity patients at risk for skeletal muscle loss or cardiovascular disease, and the third i a best-in-class inhibitor of CamKIId for heart failure and life-threatening arrhythmias.

"We are delighted to gain support from a high-quality group of US and international investors who share Vasa's mission to develop transformative therapies for cardiovascular aging that could extend the healthy lifespan," Artur Plonowski, MD, PhD, CEO and co-founder of Vasa, said in a statement.

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