5 life sciences startups in San Diego tackling diseases head-on

Oct 19, 2021 - Mary Cravens

As the #3 life sciences hub in the nation, San Diego is full of innovation and promising talent. In 2020 alone, San Diego life science startups raised a record $5.5 billion in venture capital. With our history of advancements preventing and treating polio, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and now COVID-19, it’s no surprise that San Diego is a global hub for emerging therapy innovation.  

From Parkinson’s disease to chronic pain, these five startups are making San Diego life-changing with their innovative approaches to therapies.  

Aspen Neuroscience 

With a focus on Parkinson’s disease, Aspen Neuroscience aims to develop best-in-class autologous cell therapies for neurological diseases. Put simply: It is the only company offering personalized cell therapies to fight Parkinson’s disease, by using the patient’s own cells for cell replacement therapy. Aspen is currently performing IND-enabling studies for its lead product, ANPD001, using propriety AI-based genomics tools to ensure quality control, efficiency, safety, and reproducibility. Joining San Diego’s legacy of Parkinson’s research at UC San Diego and Scripps Research, Aspen is prepared for the fight against Parkinson’s. 

Navega Therapeutics

Healing two birds with one stone, Navega Therapeutics is tackling the opioid crisis and chronic pain with its novel gene therapies. A preclinical stage company, it has developed an epigenetic gene therapy (one that changes the way the body reads DNA) to target pain in a way that is non-addictive, long-lasting, and highly specific. Inspired by nature and armed with the knowledge that more people live with chronic pain than cancer, diabetes, and heart disease combined, Navega is pursuing a radically different approach to treating chronic pain.  

Origami Therapeutics 

Origami Therapeutics has a mission to address the proteins that evade inhibition and have been “undruggable” by traditional approaches. Beginning with Huntington’s disease, Origami’s propriety protein harnesses the body’s own natural protein disposal system to degrade and remove disease-causing proteins. With a focus on neurodegenerative diseases, Origami stands out for its use of protein degradation and distribution of small molecules. 

Thirona Bio 

Thirona Bio has a focus on key diseases that impact women’s health—scleroderma, certain metastatic cancers, and keloid scars, which disproportionally impact skin of color. Thirona Bio is developing novel drugs targeting TGF- β, a transforming growth factor that drives fibrotic changes, for the treatment of fibrotic diseases. With a deeply experienced management team, Thirona Bio believes the key to success is in its people.  


Replicate works to harness the body’s natural protein making power by using synthetic biology to design unique self-replicating RNA (srRNA) that can direct that power to fight diseases. Knowing the innovation’s applicability for all patients, Replicate ultimately aims to make srRNA therapeutics broadly accessible. Replicate’s specific approach offers exceptional advantages through lowered dosing levels, increased duration of therapeutic effect, and the ability to either activate or evade the immune system, as needed. 

No matter what life-changing therapies are being developed, San Diego startups are making great waves in the ways we protect and cure some of the most challenging diseases.  

Ready to bring your therapy idea to market? San Diego is here to help: 

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