The drive to adapt a lab discovery into treatment of neurodegeneration

Teitur Trophics is breaking new ground when it comes to neurodegenerative diseases. After identifying a previously unknown means of preserving functioning brain cells, the biotech company’s founders aim to translate that discovery into therapies for conditions with almost no current treatment options. According to Co-Founder and CEO Simon Mølgaard, the team is driven by a shared commitment to scientific diligence and innovation.

For Mølgaard, there’s not only a thrill to neuroscientific research but also a sense of duty. “Throughout my entire career,” he explains, I’ve been driven by novel discoveries and the opportunity to help patients suffering from diseases.”

With a background in molecular biology and a Ph.D. in neuroscience, Mølgaard is widely published in the field and has even spent time as a visiting researcher at Mayo Clinic in the United States. In 2015, he returned to his home country of Denmark for a position as a postdoctoral researcher at Aarhus University, his alma mater. There, Mølgaard was part of a research team that found a unique new mechanism for driving neuronal survival and helping neurons maintain their function.

According to Mølgaard, he and his colleagues realized that they might have hit upon a groundbreaking approach for treating disorders like Parkinson’s disease or Huntington’s disease, which have no cure and offer grim outcomes following diagnosis.

“We believe we’ve discovered a unique opportunity for treating these patients,” says Mølgaard.

To fully explore the therapeutic possibilities of their breakthrough, the team needed to establish their own company. So Teitur Trophics — derived from “teitur,” the Old Norse word for happiness — was born.

“The aim for Teitur is to advance this to patients as fast as possible,” says Simon Mølgaard, CEO, Teitur Trophics.

Founded in early 2020 as a spinoff from Aarhus University, Teitur Trophics is based in central Denmark. Its founders include Mølgaard, Anders Dalby (who’s also Chief Scientific Officer for Teitur) and Mathias Ollendorff (Teitur’s Head of In Vivo Pharmacology), as well as Simon Glerup (Associate Professor of Neuroscience at Aarhus University).

By the summer of 2021, the team had developed their first lead compound based on their discovery, cyclic peptide TT-P34. It has since shown positive results in addressing a common pathology of certain neurodegenerative diseases, which are marked by damage and loss of function in the neurons.

“What our peptide does is harness this unique pro-survival mechanism to keep neurons alive,” explains Mølgaard. “The compound attacks three major pillars of neurodegeneration: loss of survival signals, mitochondrial failure, and lysosomal dysfunction.”

In March of 2023, Teitur announced the completion of Series A financing for €28 million, which was co-led by Sound Bioventures. Mølgaard says the funding will be used to bring TT-P34 into clinical development and ultimately finalize a phase 1 study.

“The aim for Teitur is to advance this to patients as fast as possible,” he says.

A responsibility to turn new findings into new therapeutics

According to Mølgaard, the distinct excitement and challenge of Teitur’s work is that it’s entirely new, grown from the team’s own research.

“We discovered the biology that we’re targeting,” says Mølgaard, “so this is not a case of something that’s been well studied over the last 40 years, where you understand every aspect from the get-go. We’ve built on the mechanism and the biology and uncovered[1]  unique aspects of neuronal function and survival as we’ve progressed our compound.”

Yet Mølgaard says they’re mindful that developing such a discovery comes with serious responsibility. Many people can benefit immensely from Teitur’s therapeutics.

“The combination of the scientific revelation of a new way of keeping brain cells alive and the opportunity to help patients is what really motivates us and drives us forward in this process,” he says. “That’s what gets us up in the morning.”

A partner through uncertain outcomes

The founders of Teitur were familiar with the managing partners at Sound Bioventures well before the firm invested in their company. So they knew the Sound Bioventures team was comfortable with the risks and uncertainties of developing truly novel therapeutics — a quality Mølgaard and his co-founders especially look for in investors.

“They have a very strong scientific foundation,” Mølgaard explains, “so that fits very well with our company vision.”

And while Mølgaard also highlights the firm’s responsiveness, strong mentorship, and expertise on both scientific and operational levels, he stresses another specific factor that appeals to most biotech startups.

“One thing that I think founders, in general, are looking for is how investors react in more challenging times when things are not going as expected,” he explains. “One of the reasons we are so excited about Sound Bioventures is that they are loyal to the companies they invest in.”

Find out more about the specialty therapeutics companies in Sound Bioventures’ portfolio!

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