ClostraBio, a University of Chicago startup with plans to develop a novel treatment for food allergy, announced they have raised $3.5 million in seed financing to help advance it toward human trials.
The startup’s treatment, likely to be administered by pill, is currently being testing for peanut allergy with potential applications for other allergens and protection from diseases linked to food allergies, such as eczema, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease.
“It is estimated that two children in every classroom now have a food allergy that requires strict dietary avoidance,” said Dr Cathryn Nagler, ClostraBio’s co-founder and president, as well as 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 co-founder Jeffrey Hubbell, a professor at University of Chicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering, and his team have constructed a therapy 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 New Venture Challenge, 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.