Cerevast Therapeutics Nails Down $6.6M for Ultrasound Stroke Device

12/12/11Follow @xconomy

[Update: 4:15 pm] Redmond, WA-based Cerevast Therapeutics has raised $6.6 million in venture capital to develop a new ultrasound technology to treat stroke patients.

The company, led by Icos veteran Bradford Zakes, said today that that it raised the money from seven investors in a Series C preferred stock offering. The round could be worth as much as $15.7 million over time, according to a regulatory filing. The money comes in addition to about $3.2 million from a series of financings the company has put together since it was formed in September 2009, following the purchase of assets from a previous company, ImaRx Therapeutics. The new financing was led by an unnamed “global medical device company” and included angel investors, Zakes says.

Cerevast seeks to use ultrasound waves to help provide an extra bit of oomph to clot-busting drugs that doctors use to treat strokes. As Zakes put it in an interview with Xconomy two years ago, today’s clot-busting technology has its limits. The Cerevast technology uses an automated device, put on the patient’s head, that sends ultrasound waves into the brain to gently jostle the clot so that it loosens up, and allows a clot-busting drug like Genentech’s TPA to fully penetrate the clot and dissolve it. The Cerevast technique is now going to be tested in a worldwide study of 800 patients next year, which will look to see if the new ultrasound device is safe, and whether it can help patients more fully recover from strokes, when compared with people who get the clot-busting drug alone. Stroke is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., killing 160,000 people each year, and the No. 1 cause of adult disability, according to the National Stroke Association.

Cerevast’s plan is to use the new financing to support the 800-patient trial to help it tap into the European marketplace, and to form the basis of an application for FDA approval of its technology.

“We’ve got a lot ahead of us,” Zakes said.

Cerevast isn’t the only company in the Seattle area using ultrasound as a way to improve the effectiveness of clot-busting drugs. Bothell, WA-based Ekos is developing a system for fighting a different kind of stroke—the kind that comes when a blood vessel ruptures, creating a pool of blood that clots in the brain. The Ekos technology won approval in the European Union back in January for this treatment of so-called hemorrhagic stroke.

The predecessor to Cerevast, ImaRx, used a combination of ultrasound, the standard clot-busting drug, and a microbubble technolgy that was supposed to help further open up the clots. Cerevast chose to drop the microbubble component, because of the regulatory challenge of getting a more complex regimen cleared for sale, Zakes says.

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