Japanese pharma giant Takeda has raised $36 million to launch a new brain disease hothouse in the Cambridge UK life science cluster just four months after a review indicated it would close its operations in the city.
The company told Business Weekly in July that it was keeping its options open to spin off key programmes to a Takeda-funded biotech – now that has been made flesh with a new Cambridge neuroscience company called Cerevance, launched in partnership with life science livewire Lightstone Ventures.
Cerevance will focus on discovering and developing novel therapeutics for neurological and psychiatric disorders and Takeda is jump-starting the venture by providing a 25-person neuroscience research team at its Cambridge site.
The $36m funding for Cerevance includes a $21.5m Series A financing investment from Takeda and Lightstone. The new enterprise will use a new technology, created in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute laboratory of Nathaniel Heintz at the Rockefeller University.
Seven of the 10 leading causes of disability in the world are central nervous system disorders and as a result of this new venture Takeda hopes to rapidly advance a pipeline of therapeutics.
A spokesperson said: “As a result of this decision, Cambridge UK will become home to some of Cerevance’s best scientists, programmes and discovery resources. When Takeda announced changes to our research capabilities in Cambridge, we were determined to find an innovative home for our most promising CNS programmes and scientists. Cerevance is a great example of our vision for working with the venture capital community to launch and supports our R & D strategy.
“We believe this is a positive development in our endeavour to tackle brain diseases, as well as our commitment to continuing to invest in Cambridge.”
The Cambridge research team will include industry veteran Mark Carlton, fully equipped laboratory space and licences to a portfolio of preclinical and clinical stage drug programmes.
Cerevance CEO Brad Margus said: “With a well capitalised, proven team and promising drug programmes already underway, we hope to rapidly advance a pipeline of therapeutics into the clinic in parallel with scaling up a truly novel approach to brain diseases based on our new technology.”
This is not the first time that Takeda, Heintz and Margus have joined forces. In 2009, Takeda invested in and later collaborated with CNS drug discovery start-up Envoy Therapeutics which included Heintz and Margus as founders and which also licensed a technology from the Rockefeller University. Takeda ultimately acquired Envoy in 2012.
Cerevance will have sites in both Massachusetts and Cambridge UK, “surrounded by vibrant academic research ecosystems that support biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.”
Lightstone is a heavyweight and prolific investor in life science enterprises. It has been involved in several of the largest venture-backed healthcare exits over the last decade from its offices across the US and in Ireland and Singapore.
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