Ann Arbor’s Cerenis Therapeutics Gets $51.7M to Develop Drug for Cardiovascular Disease

7/26/10

Cerenis Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company based in Ann Arbor, MI, and Toulouse, France, has just received $51.7 million to continue stalking a killer.

The criminal in question is atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, and it’s the number-one cause of death in the developed world. Cerenis’ promising new weapon in the fight is a drug called CER-001, which is currently in Phase I clinical development to treat acute coronary syndrome, which is a general term that applies to a wide range of heart conditions. The new investment will enable Cerenis, along with manufacturing partner Groupe Novasep, to complete a phase II “proof of concept,” clinical trial, says Jean-Louis Dasseux, Cerenis president and CEO.

Cerenis’ drug is designed to reduce artery-choking plaques by mimicking HDL, the so-called good cholesterol. “We believe CER-001 is positioned to be the ‘first and best in class,” Dasseux told me via e-mail this morning, adding that the funds could be used to expand local operations. “Cerenis intends to stay in Ann Arbor and to continue to grow the organization to support company development,” he says.

Half of the new investment in Cerenis comes from the Fund for Strategic Investment, which is 51 percent owned by the French firm Caisse des Depots and 49 percent by the French state. The FSI takes minority stakes in French companies that it believes creates value and industrial competitiveness for the economy, Dasseux says.

The other half comes from Ann Arbor’s EDF Ventures, Sofinnova Partners, HealthCap, Alta Partners, TVM Capital, OrbiMed, and Daiwa Corporate Investment.

Dasseux was previously involved in cardiovascular disease research as vice president of chemistry and technology at Ann Arbor drug developer Esperion before it was acquired by Pfizer in 2003. Dasseux then went to France to continue his research into HDL therapies. Dasseux and other Esperion veterans founded Cerenis in 2005. The company has dual headquarters in Ann Arbor and Toulouse with about 12 employees in Michigan.

Dasseux says this just-raised $51.7 million is a first close and Cerenis intends to have a second one before the end of the year. The investment is one of the largest in a decade in Michigan.

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