Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals Receives $3.4M Grant from NINDS To Advance New Therapies for ALS

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — May 15, 2018 Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals, leaders in stress granule biology, an exciting new target for the development of neurodegenerative therapeutics, announced today that it has been awarded $3.4 million from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) in a competing grant to advance novel therapeutic drug candidates towards the clinic for treating patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals is developing innovative drugs designed to slow or potentially reverse the progression of ALS. Currently there is no cure or effective treatment for slowing the progression of ALS, a lethal neurodegenerative disease that quickly stifles nerve cell function, leading to loss of muscle control throughout the body. ALS can progress rapidly with more than half of newly diagnosed patients not surviving beyond three years.This is Aquinnah’s second NINDS grant awarded to support its unique approach to treating ALS, which targets the prevention of pathological TDP-43 stress granule protein complexes found in the brains of most ALS patients. The accumulation of these disease-linked protein complexes is believed to drive the progression of ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases. Aquinnah will use newly identified small molecule compounds to attack and break down the complexes, with the goal of moving a novel and effective class of ALS drugs into clinical development.

Glenn Larsen, Ph.D., President and CEO of Aquinnah said, “Modulating stress granules in the brain represents a new and exciting approach to treating and potentially preventing a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases. We are very pleased that NINDS recognizes this, leading to funding for our innovative ALS program. Our mission is to revolutionize ALS treatment and change the clinical outcome of this devastating disease by developing a new drug to slow or potentially reverse the progression of ALS.”

“This support from the NINDS will greatly help advance Aquinnah's science toward IND-enabling activities and our goal of developing novel ALS therapies,” said co-founder Ben Wolozin, M.D., Ph.D. "Our work remains urgent knowing that our efforts could radically change the outcomes for ALS patients within a matter of years."

About Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals

Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals is harnessing the power of stress granule biology to develop oral small molecule drug candidates to prevent TDP-43 pathology in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); and with other programs targeting Alzheimer’s disease by developing inhibitors of tau stress granule pathology. Aquinnah is financially backed by AbbVie, Inc., Pfizer, Inc. and Takeda Pharmaceuticals.


NINDS is the nation’s leading funder of research on the brain and nervous system. The mission of NINDS is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease.

Company Contact
Glenn Larsen, President & CEO
Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals

Media Contact
George MacDougall
MacDougall Biomedical Communications

Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals Appoints Travis Wager as Vice President of Research

Former Pfizer research lead to drive development of Aquinnah’s neurodegenerative therapeutic development programs

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — May 15, 2018 Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals, leaders in stress granule biology, an exciting new approach in the development of neurodegenerative therapeutics for ALS and Alzheimer’s diseases, today announced the appointment of Travis T. Wager, Ph.D., as Vice President of Research. Dr. Wager brings almost 20 years of leadership experience driving neuroscience research and drug discovery programs at Pfizer. Dr. Wager will oversee all discovery biology and chemistry activities for Aquinnah’s growing pipeline of neurodegenerative therapeutics.

“We are very excited to welcome Travis to our growing team,” said Glenn Larsen, Ph.D., Co-founder, President and CEO of Aquinnah. “His leadership and experience at Pfizer, where he helped advance eight neuroscience programs to clinical development, and his deep and extensive research and development experience will be invaluable as we advance our therapeutic programs targeting stress granules in both ALS, tau biology in Alzheimer’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases.”

Prior to joining Aquinnah, Dr. Wager held various leadership positions at Pfizer including Project Leader for Neuroscience and Head of small molecule design for the Neuroscience and Pain Research Unit. Dr. Wager is an internationally recognized expert in the field of brain-penetrant small molecule design. His seminal contributions to the understanding of physicochemical properties and the development of the CNS MPO desirability tool has enabled drug discovery design across the industry. He has been published extensively in ACS Chemical Neuroscience and Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, authored nearly 40 scientific papers and holds over 30 patents. While at Pfizer, Dr. Wager’s eight small molecule programs advanced to clinical development candidates, including the first kinase inhibitor for a CNS indication. Beyond developing new medicines targeting Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Wager has developed compounds to treat Schizophrenia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy and allergic rhinitis. He has received numerous awards including the W.E. Upjohn Award from Pfizer, the Cheves T. Walling Award from University of Utah and is also a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for ACS Chemical Neuroscience. Dr. Wager obtained a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the University of Utah with Professor G. E. Keck, where he also conducted his postdoctoral research.

“The field of neurodegenerative diseases is vast and includes a number of conditions with high, unmet medical needs, such as ALS and Alzheimer’s, where I have dedicated my education and career,” said Dr. Wager. “I look forward to leading the research and development team at Aquinnah and advancing our first-in-class medicines to accomplish Aquinnah’s mission to provide life-changing impact for patients around the world.”

About Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals

Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals is harnessing the power of stress granule biology to develop a new class of drug candidates with the potential to prevent and possibly reverse the pathology of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, as well as Alzheimer’s disease. Aquinnah is financially backed by Abbvie, Inc., Pfizer, Inc. and Takeda Pharmaceuticals.

Company Contact
Glenn Larsen, President & CEO
Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals

Media Contact
George MacDougall
MacDougall Biomedical Communications

LabCentral to Open Next-Stage Facility for Growing Life Science Companies, Supported by Pfizer

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (September 21, 2017) – LabCentral and Pfizer today announced plans to open LabCentral 610, a new LabCentral offering located at Pfizer’s Kendall Square Worldwide Research and Development campus. The 33,000-square-foot facility is slated to open in December and will house up to six early- to mid-stage companies. Eligible startups include those with high-impact science, excellent execution, and significant prospects for achieving scientific and business success whose space needs exceed current LabCentral offerings. The companies may be ‘graduates’ from the current LabCentral space, or those interested in securing space in the thriving bioscience Kendall Square neighborhood.

A joint steering committee made up of representatives from LabCentral and Pfizer evaluate potential companies. Three local biotechs have been accepted: Affinivax, EnBiotix, and Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals. Companies interested in applying can learn more here on LabCentral’s website.

“As our resident startups have met their scientific milestones quickly and efficiently, they’ve thrived and grown – often citing LabCentral’s support and coworking model as a key factor,” said LabCentral Cofounder and President Johannes Fruehauf, M.D., Ph.D.”

LabCentral developed the LabCentral 610 site in response to requests from resident startups outgrowing or “aging out” of its original facility who want to remain within LabCentral’s supportive environment as they continue on in their next stage of development. (LabCentral policies limit the length of time resident companies can stay in order to make room for a steady stream of cutting-edge startups.)

Fruehauf continued, “Of course, we’re a startup too, and like our resident companies, reap the benefits of working within our own creative shared work environment. Since the beginning, we have been in a constant dialogue with our residents, sponsors, and the larger biotech stakeholder community to adjust, adapt, and fine-tune our model and service offerings to meet the current and future need. This project is a direct result of that process. We’re enormously grateful to have Pfizer support us in this pursuit.”

Pfizer’s Chief Scientific Officer of Internal Medicine Morrie Birnbaum, M.D., Ph.D. commented, “Pfizer is proud to add LabCentral 610 to our growing Kendall Square Worldwide Research and Development campus. Collaborating with leaders such as LabCentral to foster scientific exchange and grow the next generation of biotechs is core to our mission, and it’s a testament to the strength of the area’s biomedical ecosystem to see these types of collaborations develop.” Dr. Birnbaum serves on the LabCentral 610 joint selection committee and is also the Pfizer Worldwide Research and Development site’s senior scientific director.

More about the space and founding tenant companies

The facility features six private lab suites and can accommodate companies ranging in size from 20 to 40 people. Common space includes: six conference rooms; four phone booth/huddle rooms; a dedicated mother’s room and nap room; a kitchen/café; and a “living room” (the corollary to the “playroom” in LabCentral’s original 700 Main Street location).

Three of the six companies have already been selected:


Affinivax is developing a pipeline of next-generation vaccines, based on its proprietary technology platform, the Multiple Antigen Presenting System (MAPS), which induces both a B-cell and T-cell immune response, providing for much broader protection against the most-invasive pathogens.

Affinivax President and CEO Steven Brugger commented, “When we moved into LabCentral in June of 2014, we were
a spinout from Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) with seed funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Today, we are 30 people strong. Working within LabCentral’s vibrant, shared community has been vital to our success to date. LabCentral enabled us to hit the ground running. We accelerated the tech transfer of the MAPS technology from BCH, we built a great team, secured key partnerships, and are now advancing two novel vaccines towards clinical trials. Because of the energy level and network of talent that the LabCentral community offers, our work is often fueled and inspired by the amazing work going on around us.”


EnBiotix is a product-focused bioengineering company using synthetic-biology platforms to transform and revitalize existing antibiotic classes to combat the global rise of drug-resistant bacterial infections.

EnBiotix Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO Jeffrey Wager, M.D., said, “We are excited to make the move next door to LabCentral 610. We did look for other space, but it’s difficult to find anything that’s appropriately sized for us at this stage of our development. We’re still fairly small today. But we’re growing. We don’t want to get locked into a long- term lease on something that’s ‘just right’ for now. However, we can’t afford to waste precious resources on space we don’t need. At LabCentral, we’ll have flexibility, world-class infrastructure, equipment, and service − plus, zero downtime when we move. And the staff is incredible − we know we’ll be up-and-running doing science right away.”

Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals

Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals is focused on drug candidates with the potential to prevent and possibly reverse the formation of pathological stress granules, believed to be important in the pathology of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, as well as Alzheimer’s disease.

Aquinnah’s President and CEO Glenn Larsen, Ph.D. commented, “Our tenure at LabCentral has been extremely productive due to the superb LabCentral infrastructure, management, and operations teams. This facilitated our ability to focus on drug discovery and development and helped us achieve $15 million in investment from major pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer. We are honored to be accepted as an inaugural member of LabCentral 610. Our move to this larger state-of-the-art laboratory will allow continued growth and an acceleration of our research and development. Without LabCentral’s catalytic support, informative programming, and the energetic environment of other innovative technology companies, we would not have advanced our technology as quickly as we have.” Dr. Larsen added, “We expect to file an IND for ALS in 2018, and will continue to advance our new Alzheimer’s tauopathy programs.”

About LabCentral (; twitter @labcentral)
LabCentral is a first-of-its-kind shared laboratory workspace in the heart of the Kendall Square, Cambridge, biotech innovation hub. Designed as a launchpad for high-potential life-sciences and biotech startups, it offers everything startups need to begin laboratory operations on day one and move their science forward faster and more cost- efficiently. This includes: fully permitted laboratory and office space, first-class facility and administrative support, skilled laboratory personnel, a domain-relevant expert speaker series ‒ as well as the other critical services and support. A private, nonprofit institution, LabCentral’s first site opened in 2013, thanks to a capital grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, with support from its real-estate partner, MIT. Founding sponsors include Triumvirate Environmental and Johnson & Johnson Innovation. To accommodate demand for its growing startups, LabCentral, with support from Pfizer, Inc., plans to open LabCentral 610 in December 2017. In 2018, LabCentral will have capacity to serve a total of ~450 scientists and entrepreneurs in about 66 companies across its two-building campus.

About Pfizer: Working together for a healthier world®

At Pfizer, we apply science and our global resources to bring therapies to people that extend and significantly improve their lives. We strive to set the standard for quality, safety and value in the discovery, development and manufacture of health care products. Our global portfolio includes medicines and vaccines as well as many of the world's best-known consumer health care products. Every day, Pfizer colleagues work across developed and emerging markets to advance wellness, prevention, treatments and cures that challenge the most feared diseases of our time. Consistent with our responsibility as one of the world's premier innovative biopharmaceutical companies, we collaborate with health care providers, governments and local communities to support and expand access to reliable, affordable health care around the world. For more than 150 years, we have worked to make a difference for all who rely on us. We routinely post information that may be important to investors on our website at In addition, to learn more, please visit us on and follow us on Twitter at @Pfizer and @Pfizer_News, LinkedIn, YouTube and like us on Facebook at


For LabCentral
Caroline Grossman
(781) 771-.5579

For Pfizer
Samantha Reardon
(212) 733-1461