Apple Tree Partners Founds Nine Square Therapeutics to Pioneer Novel Treatments for Movement Disorders


New company, co-founded with UCSF scientists and being incubated in San Francisco, will apply computational sciences and machine learning to accelerate drug discovery in Parkinson’s disease, ALS, essential tremor, and dyskinesias

NEW YORK, July 1, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – Apple Tree Partners (ATP), a leading life sciences venture firm, announced today the creation of Nine Square Therapeutics to discover novel therapies for movement disorders. Based in San Francisco, Nine Square Therapeutics is launching with $50 million in committed Series A funding from ATP. The new company will discover new small-molecule therapeutics for degenerative movement disorders including Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), as well as non-degenerative disorders such as essential tremor and dyskinesias, by integrating computational chemistry, biophysics and computational biology into machine-learning-enabled cell profiling platforms for target identification, chemical optimization and patient stratification.

“Effective treatments for movement disorders are urgently needed. When we saw a unique opportunity to discover targets at the intersection of emerging scientific and technical disciplines, we created Nine Square Therapeutics to accelerate solutions for patients,” said ATP founder and managing partner Seth Harrison, M.D., who will chair the new company’s board. “Nine Square Therapeutics is the first in a series of exciting ventures that we anticipate emerging from our scientific collaborations in the Bay Area.”

Nine Square Therapeutics grew from a collaboration between ATP and scientists at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). The company’s founders are:

  • Matthew Jacobson, Ph.D., professor and chair of the UCSF Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, a recognized authority in computer-aided drug design and computational structural biology who has founded several well-known life sciences companies including Global Blood Therapeutics, Circle Pharma, Relay and Cedilla. Jacobson will serve on the Nine Square Therapeutics board.
  • Steven Altschuler, Ph.D., and Lani Wu, Ph.D., professors in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at UCSF, leaders in the fields of single-cell analysis and quantitative imaging. They combine biology, machine learning and mathematics to develop highly scalable platforms for novel biological target discovery and pathway interrogation. A board-observer position at Nine Square Therapeutics will be occupied by either Wu or Altschuler.
  • Spiros Liras, Ph.D., an ATP venture partner who is a longtime collaborator with Professors Jacobson, Altschuler and Wu and an adjunct professor in UCSF’s Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Liras, who has several decades of experience leading scientific innovation and discovery at biopharmaceutical companies including Biogen and Pfizer, will serve as interim CEO of Nine Square Therapeutics and will be a director on the new company’s board.

“We believe that Nine Square Therapeutics will be clearly differentiated from other companies working in movement disorders based on our deep expertise in computational chemistry and biology, the machine-learning cell imaging platforms and our experience in pursuing difficult targets with novel approaches,” said Liras. “We look forward to growing our team and making important new discoveries in this underserved area.”

Michael Ehlers, M.D., Ph.D., ATP venture partner and chief scientific officer, will also serve as a director on the Nine Square Therapeutics board, bringing extensive experience in neuroscience drug discovery and development.


Media contact: Sally Jacob  (212)468-5800