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January 18, 2018

UChicago Food Allergy Startup Raises $3.5M

ClostraBio, a startup that was founded in part by UChicago professors and focuses on alleviating food allergies, raised over $3.5 million in a seed financing round last week. 

ClostraBio is developing a drug that could mitigate the effects of food allergies by employing an enhanced understanding of the gut’s microbiome.

With extensive support from both UChicago’s Booth School of Business and the Polsky Center’s Innovation Fund, ClostraBio was able to enter into the final round of the New Venture Challenge, one of the nation’s top university accelerator programs. Support from the University of Chicago enabled the startup to hone its pitching process and attract more investors.

“We worked with the Booth School, and they were great,” Cathryn Nagler, co-founder and biomedical sciences professor, said. “They taught us how to pitch it. It was very much like what you see on Shark Tank. You have to get the investors interested from the moment you walk in the door, and you have to tell them something that’s compelling and that makes them want to invest. That’s different from presenting science.”

The drug not only has potential to alleviate food allergies, but it could also mitigate diseases related to dysfunction of the epithelial layer of the intestine.

“What we think this will do is help diseases that are related to barrier dysfunction, which would include all of the so-called ‘diseases of Western society.’ This includes potentially inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, food allergies, asthma, [and] diabetes,” Nagler said.

By replacing an important function of “peacekeeper” bacteria in the gut, the drug maintains the epithelial layer and prevents harmful microbes and allergens from entering the bloodstream.

ClostraBio plans to finish animal testing within the next year. Going forward, the company hopes to complete clinical trials and introduce the drug in a preventative form.

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