Escalier Biosciences raises $19 million


Escalier Biosciences, with offices in Encinitas and the Netherlands, said March 13 that it has raised $19 million in venture capital financing. Privately held Escalier is developing drugs for psoriasis and other autoimmune disorders.

The round was led by Forbion, a European life science venture fund. It included existing investors New Science Ventures and BioGeneration Ventures.

Escalier’s drug candidates are in late-stage preclinical studies. Its topical drug for psoriasis is expected to enter clinical trials in the middle of this year, the company said. The company is also developing an oral psoriasis drug.

The company’s drugs target a cell receptor found on mucus membranes. The receptor, called RAR-Related Orphan Receptor Gamma, is involved in the immune response. The expectation is that modifying the immune response on these membranes will alleviate psoriasis and other autoimmune disorders.

Escalier’s corporate headquarters is in the Netherlands; with research and development managed from Encinitas, said CEO Raju Mohan, himself an Encinitas resident. That office has six full-time employees.

Contract laboratory work is performed in San Francisco, India, the Netherlands and wherever else is appropriate, Mohan said.

Before Escalier, Mohan had co-founded two other companies and served in executive levels for others, all while living in Encinitas. During much of this time, he has worked with the same core group of Encinitas-based people.

Mohan said the team enjoys the coastal Encinitas lifestyle, including its surfing culture.

Mohan had most recently co-founded Akarna Therapeutics, a developer of liver drugs that also maintained an Encinitas office. Akarna was purchased in 2016 by Allergan in a deal providing $50 million upfront and additional milestone payments.

Because there’s no need for “wet lab” space — generally found only in biotech centers such as La Jolla — Encinitas works well, Mohan said.

“I moved away from the UTC/La Jolla biotech area to a very focused, very driven, environment that’s a little bit outside of the mainstream,” he said.

-- Bradley J. Fikes is a writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune.