Company developing a treatment for food allergies
ClostraBio, a biotech startup creating medicines to prevent allergic reactions to food, has raised $3.5 million in financing to advance it closer to human clinical drug trials.
Investors include Joe Mansueto, the founder of Chicago based investment research company Morningstar; the University of Chicago; and two families, one in Chicago and one in Virginia, whose children suffer from severe food allergies.
“It is estimated that two children in every classroom now have a food allergy that requires strict dietary avoidance,” said Cathryn Nagler, ClostraBio’s cofounder and president, who is also the Bunning Food Allergy Professor at the University of Chicago. “And we believe the key to preventing these allergies is in your gut, specifically in the bacteria of your gut.”
When appropriately balanced, the microbes in the gut help maintain the strength of the gut lining. But when certain microbes are missing, this barrier function may be weakened, enhancing susceptibility to food allergy.
Company cofounder Jeffrey Hubbell, a professor at UChicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering, and his team have constructed a therapy — most likely it will be a pill — to strengthen that barrier and prevent the allergens from passing out of the gut and into the bloodstream.
The Nagler laboratory has tested this therapy in early studies on mice. This first round of outside capital will take the drug through additional animal testing, moving it closer to human clinical trials.
The company was recently one of the top finalists in the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC), a nationally ranked accelerator program run by Chicago Booth and the university’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The company also received funding through the Polsky Center’s Innovation Fund, which invests in promising startups founded by University of Chicago faculty, students and staff.
“We’re grateful the Polsky Center has provided us with the necessary support to get us to the point where outside investors are eager to sign on,” said John Colson, the company’s Director of Operations and a former post doctoral researcher at UChicago.