Restructuring, Startups

Cutting back in the UK, Takeda spins out its top neuroscience team into a transatlantic biotech

Mark Carlton

Mark Carlton

As Takeda continues a global R&D overhaul that includes a wind down of UK operations, the Japanese pharma company is spinning out its neuroscience team into a new biotech called Cerevance, which will have roots in the two Cambridges on both sides of the Atlantic.

Mark Carlton, the former president and CSO of Takeda Cambridge (UK), and his 25-member team — complete with a well equipped lab — have become the core group behind Cerevance. The new biotech is getting started with $36 million in funding, including $21.5 million from Takeda and Lightstone Ventures. And it will jump into existence with a portfolio of preclinical and clinical programs underway.

Nathaniel Heintz, Ph.D. at the Rockefeller University, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, is providing some of the technical insights that the company will be focused on. And Brad Margus, who is based in the Cambridge, MA hub and who co-founded another CNS startup, Envoy Therapeutics, with Takeda in 2009 will be the CEO.

Takeda has been shuttering its UK operations as part of a reorganization that we’ve been covering closely at Endpoints News. CEO Christophe Weber has been exiting the UK in favor of hubs in Boston and Japan. And the company has been following a path taken by a number of the pharma giants, spinning out the valuable bits of what it no longer wants to keep. AstraZeneca did the same with its antibiotics unit in Waltham a couple of years ago, creating Entasis.

Andrew Plump, Takeda CSO

Andrew Plump, Takeda CSO

Neurosciences has been a tough field for the big players, as Eli Lilly and others can attest to. With AstraZeneca, GSK and others in retreat, a new wave of upstarts — including Denali — have come along to pursue new technologies and new insights into how CNS ailments can be treated.

And as Takeda illustrates, what falters at a pharma company can be used to found new players.

Andrew Plump, the Boston-based R&D chief of Takeda, had this to say:

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

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