Takeda retains UK investment with new neuroscience company Cerevance

Takeda and venture capital group Lightstone Ventures have launched Cerevance, a neuroscience company focused on discovering and developing novel therapeutics for neurological and psychiatric disorders.

The new venture has emerged after the Japanese company announced in August it was closing its UK research site in Cambridge. The new joint venture allows Takeda’s promising work in neuroscience to continue under a new joint funding structure.

Cerevance is funded with $36 million that includes a $21.5 million Series A financing investment from Takeda and Lightstone Ventures, with each joining Cerevance’s Board of Directors.

The company will use a new technology, created in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute laboratory of Nathaniel Heintz, Ph.D. at the Rockefeller University.

Takeda says it will provide the new company with a 25-person neuroscience research team from its site in Cambridge, including industry veteran Mark Carlton, Ph.D., plus a fully equipped laboratory space, and licences to a portfolio of preclinical and clinical stage drug programmes.

“Seven of the ten leading causes of disability in the world are central nervous system disorders,” said Brad Margus, Cerevance chief executive. “With a well capitalised, proven team and promising drug programs 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.”

“We are thrilled to assemble some of our best scientists, programmes and discovery resources in a highly focused endeavour as part of our increased emphasis on leveraging external innovation,” said Andrew Plump, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical and scientific officer of Takeda.

“When we announced the closure of our research site in Cambridge, UK, our goal was to find an innovative externalisation home for our most promising CNS programmes and scientists in an entrepreneurial setting. Cerevance is a great example of our new R&D strategy.”

“Lightstone is excited to lead the Series A in Cerevance and believes the combination of Nat Heintz’s expertise and platform technology, the proven and impassioned management team, and Takeda’s strong support represent a compelling early-stage investment opportunity,” said Jason Lettmann, Partner at Lightstone Ventures.

“Cerevance is in a unique position to bring a breakthrough technology to the development of treatments for central nervous system diseases that affect millions of people worldwide.”

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 the UK, which it praises for their “vibrant academic research ecosystems that support biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.”

The investment is another vote of confidence in the UK science base, despite the uncertainties facing the country as it slowly heads towards Brexit.

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