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Cebix Shuts Down Following Mid-Stage Trial of C-Peptide Drug

Xconomy San Diego — 

San Diego-based Cebix, which raised about $50 million to advance a C-peptide replacement therapy for treating diabetes-related microvascular problems, has quietly folded its tent.

Jacob Fuchs, an Xconomy reader and pharmacy student interested in the use of C-peptide as a potential treatment for diabetic patients, recently inquired about the company’s status. In an e-mail, he noted that the company’s website had shut down and their phone numbers are disconnected. “It’s like they fell off the face of the Earth or something,” he wrote.

When I asked for an update from Cebix CEO Joel Martin, he replied, “Falling off the face of the Earth is pretty close!”

Cebix, founded in 2008, was based on a promising hypothesis. John Wahren, an emeritus professor of clinical physiology at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, had helped determine that C-peptide plays a key role in keeping the smallest blood vessels healthy.

C-peptide is formed naturally in the body, when insulin is cleaved from pro-insulin. Patients with type 1 diabetes, whose pancreases produce little or no insulin, are also susceptible to microvascular deterioration, including loss of sensation (neuropathy), loss of kidney function (nephropathy), and loss of vision (retinopathy).

Cebix was focused on a proprietary replacement peptide, called Ersatta, for treating such complications.

“We concluded a perfectly executed phase 2b in December, just to get definitive results that Ersatta and placebo were, alas, indistinguishable,” Martin explained. “We determined that there was no point in further development and moved to wind down operations. As efficient as ever, we did that in 30 days.”

In October, 2012, Cebix raised $30.9 million to fund the mid-stage trial. At that time, Martin said the company had raised a total of nearly $48 million, primarily from InterWest, Sofinnova Ventures, and Thomas, McNerney & Partners.

In a regulatory filing last November, Cebix disclosed that it had secured nearly $32 million in additional commitments from its investors for a planned $34.9 million round, apparently in anticipation of capital the company would need to move Ersatta into late-stage clinical trials. After getting the lackluster results in December, the company instead shut down.

“The team and I are looking at many NewCo ideas with the support of our investors,” Martin wrote. “We can only control the operations, not the outcomes. We’ll be back in another guise before you know it!”