RARE Daily

Walden Biosciences Launches with $51 Million to Transform the Treatment of Kidney Disease

October 6, 2020

Rare Daily Staff

Walden Biosciences launched with $51 million in a series A financing to develop first-in-class, targeted therapies to reverse the progression of rare and common forms of kidney disease and restore renal function.

ARCH Venture Partners and UCB Ventures led the financing.

While the majority of renal drug development approaches focus on reducing general physiologic stressors, including hypertension, diabetes, and inflammation that lead to chronic kidney disease, they do not stop the inevitable progression to renal failure, the need for dialysis, and organ transplantation. Walden intends to advance the treatment of renal disease by addressing kidney-specific cell types and biologic processes to produce therapies that restore renal function rather than slow its decline.

“Kidney disease is a public health crisis and there is an urgent need to develop innovative therapies that directly target the disease and provide an alternative to dialysis or transplant,” said Blaine McKee, president and CEO of Walden Biosciences. “Walden seeks to revolutionize the field of nephrology and we are relentlessly focused on changing the way patients with all forms of kidney disease are treated.”

Walden’s approach is to improve the function of podocytes – cells within the kidney that play an active role in the filtration process—and restore kidney function. Its platform builds on the decades long, breakthrough work of its scientific founders, Jochen Reiser, chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine at Rush University Medical Center and professor at Rush Medical College of Rush University, and Sanja Sever, associate professor of Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Walden has active programs that address two novel targets for therapeutic intervention: soluble urokinase plasminogen activating receptor (suPAR) and dynamin. Targeting both suPAR and dynamin may be beneficial across numerous types of renal diseases.

suPAR is a protein that connects the kidney to the immune system and is used as an inflammatory biomarker. Elevated suPAR levels have long been associated with an excess of protein in the urine, or proteinuria, a decline in kidney function, and eventual reduction in the glomerular filtration rate. By inhibiting suPAR, Walden aims to reduce proteinuria, remove unwanted kidney inflammation, and improve kidney function.

Dynamin is a protein that is critical to maintaining the structural integrity of podocytes and the glomerular filtration barrier in the kidney. If dynamin is reduced or loses function, this can also result in proteinuria. By stimulating or activating dynamin, Walden will aim to restore podocyte health and reduce proteinuria, ultimately improving the function of damaged kidneys.

The Walden team includes biotech veteran Steven Gillis as chairman of the board and President and CEO McKee, who has held executive positions at Genzyme and Shire and most recently at Immunogen.

Photo: Blaine McKee, president and CEO of Walden Biosciences

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