5 top startups developing drugs for respiratory diseases

Staying ahead of the technology curve means strengthening your competitive advantage. That is why we give you data-driven innovation insights into the pharma industry. This time, you get to discover 5 hand-picked startups working on respiratory drugs.

The 5 pharma startups you will explore below are chosen based on our data-driven startup scouting approach, taking into account factors such as location, founding year, and relevance of technology, among others. This analysis is based on the Big Data & Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered StartUs Insights Discovery Platform, covering over 1.3 million startups & scaleups globally.

The Global Startup Heat Map below highlights the 5 startups our Innovation Researchers curated for this report. Moreover, you get insights into regions that observe a high startup activity and the global geographic distribution of the 271 companies we analyzed for this specific topic.

Atriva Therapeutics work on Antiviral Therapy
Many respiratory diseases, such as influenza and COVID-19, are caused by infectious viruses. Drugs that prevent the progression of the viruses inside the human body are crucial to tackling these diseases. In addition to combating the virus, these drugs also mitigate the immune response. To further advance the field, pharma startups are working on diverse antiviral therapies that act at the site of infection.

Atriva Therapeutics is a German startup working on biopharmaceuticals for antiviral therapies. ATR-002, the startup’s lead drug candidate, targets an intracellular signaling pathway crucial for the replication of many RNA viruses. The drug also modulates the pro-inflammatory cytokine response to prevent a cytokine storm caused by a viral infection. The startup is investigating the efficacy of the drug in the treatment of moderate to severe COVID-19 cases.


Exvastat develops Repurposed Drugs

Through drug repurposing, pharma startups find new therapeutic applications for existing drugs. This is vital for neglected diseases as it lowers research and development (R&D) costs, as well as benefits from established supply chains. Pharma startups leverage computational techniques to screen the literature and identify alternative therapeutic uses to existing drugs.

British startup Exvastat develops a repurposed drug for the treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The startup is reformulating imatinib, a drug sold for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia. The reformulated drug leverages its ability to inhibit vascular leak, a driver of pulmonary edema.

Altavant Sciences advances Small Molecule Inhibitors
The molecular basis of many respiratory diseases lies in the overproduction of enzymes such as proteases, phosphodiesterases, or hydroxylases. This makes them attractive therapeutic targets for the treatment of respiratory disorders. Pharma startups are developing small molecule inhibitors as respiratory drugs for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), and other diseases.

Altavant Sciences is a US-based startup advancing therapies for the treatment of rare respiratory diseases. Rodaristat ethyl, the startup’s lead drug candidate, is a small molecule inhibitor of tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH). The drug lowers the level of serotonin in diseases such as PAH and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Additionally, the startup is developing drugs for the treatment of bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome.

ReAlta Life Sciences engineers Peptides
Many respiratory diseases, including asthma, COPD, or cystic fibrosis (CF) occur in the airway epithelium. However, the delivery of therapeutic cargo to airway epithelial cells is a challenge due to many natural barriers. Engineered peptides present a novel approach to overcome this challenge.

The US-based startup ReAlta Life Sciences develops engineered peptides that harness the power of the immune system. RSL-0071, the startup’s lead molecule, downregulates complement cascade and innate immune response that leads to acute lung injury (ALI). The drug is under development for the treatment of ALI associated with COVID-19, as well as other viral respiratory infections. Moreover, the startup is also investigating RSL-0071 for the treatment of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and acute hemolytic transfusion reaction.

Omnispirant explores Inhaled Gene Therapy
In the last decade, advances in gene sequencing and gene editing have made gene therapy more feasible than ever before. For the treatment of respiratory diseases, gene therapy offers a way to correct deleterious mutations or reverse disease-causing states. Inhaled gene therapy takes a direct route to deliver deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) to the airways and lungs. Pharma startups are working on solutions to enhance the delivery of therapeutic cargo through this method.

Irish startup Omnispirant works on inhaled gene therapy to treat respiratory disorders. The startup’s platform technology uses inhaled engineered stem cell exosomes that enable efficient intracellular delivery of therapeutic cargo. The exosomes penetrate the mucus, have low immunogenicity, and are non-genotoxic. Omnispirant is specifically leveraging its platform to develop an inhaled gene therapy for the treatment of CF.