Eli Lilly, AbbVie, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Innovate NY Fund and WuXi AppTec have all backed neurological disorder drug developer Magnolia Neurosciences at launch.

US-based neuroprotective medicine developer Magnolia Neurosciences launched yesterday with $31m in series A funding from investors including pharmaceutical firms Eli Lilly, AbbVie, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and WuXi AppTec.

Alexandria Venture Investments, a subsidiary of real estate investment trust Alexandria Real Estate Equities, also took part, as did the New York State-backed Innovate NY Fund, 180 Degree Capital, Arch Venture Partners, Watson Fund and Partnership Fund for New York City.

AbbVie, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and WuXi AppTec participated through respective subsidiaries AbbVie Ventures, Pfizer Ventures, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC and WuXi AppTec Corporate Venture Fund

Magnolia Neurosciences is developing treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and neuronal injury. The company’s approach relies on blocking specific components responsible for programmed cell death.

Programmed cell death is a natural part of embryonic development that ensures excess neurons are eliminated. However, the process can be reactivated by conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, leading to brain function being impaired.

The technology is based on research in University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Therapeutics Discovery division and the Neurodegeneration Consortium. It was co-founded by MD Anderson and life science investment firm Accelerator Life Science Partners.

Pfizer Ventures principal Laszlo Kiss said: “This investment in Magnolia Neurosciences exemplifies Pfizer’s commitment to funding neuroscience innovation and supporting cutting-edge translational neuroscience research.

“Our new focus on neuroscience investing is designed to support entrepreneurs who are deciphering the molecular basis of neurologic disorders, and we believe that Magnolia Neurosciences has the technology and scientific foundation on which to build an exciting portfolio of neuroprotective medicines.”