Promentis closes $26M round and enters clinic; PellePharma gets breakthrough/orphan status; Shire appoints Dittrich as CFO
→ Milwaukee-based Promentis Pharmaceuticals has closed the final tranche of its previously-announced $26 million Series C round. OrbiMed, F-Prime Capital Partners (formerly Fidelity Biosciences) and Aisling Capital led the round. Existing investors, including Black Pearl GmbH, the Golden Angel Network and individual investors, also participated. The biotech’s lead product candidate is SXC-2023 — a small molecule designed to engage System Xc-, a CNS target addressing glutamatergic dysfunction and oxidative stress — for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. The product has entered Phase I trials in patients with trichotillomania, a condition characterized by recurrent hair pulling which leads to noticeable hair loss.
→ Bay Area’s PellePharma just got breakthrough therapy and orphan drug designations for its topical version of patidegib, a skin cancer treatment for persistently developing basal cell carcinomas in patients with a rare genetic disease known as Gorlin syndrome or Basal Cell Carcinoma Nevus Syndrome. Breakthrough status was granted based on Phase II safety and efficacy results. Since Gorlin Syndrome is a rare condition affecting roughly 10,000 people in the US, the FDA also granted PellePharma orphan status. PellePharm intends to initiate a Phase III clinical trial for patidegib in Gorlin syndrome in 2018.
→ After toying with a spinoff idea in August, Shire $SHPG has tapped Thomas Dittrich to replace current CFO Jeff Poulton, who is leaving at the end of this year. Whereas his most recent stint was at an industrial engineering firm, Dittrich had previously worked in finance roles at Amgen for almost a decade. He joins the rare disease biotech as it prepares for a showdown with a fierce rival Roche on the hemophilia A front.
→ Mary Lynne Hedley and Lonnie Moulder, co-founders of Waltham, MA-based Tesaro, has been named EY National Entrepreneurs of the Year. Their selection as the overall winner came after they already won the award in the life sciences category. EY noted that the biopharma commercialized two drugs in seven years — including Varubi, the IV version of which was also recently approved. “In addition to wanting to build a meaningful oncology company, they were just as committed to one with a business culture based on collaboration,” EY wrote.