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4 October, 2010 - 18:41 By News Desk

New Cambridge biotech raises £22.4m


Convergence Pharmaceuticals Ltd, a new Cambridge company focused on the development of novel and high value analgesic medicines, was officially launched today and has successfully raised $35.4 million (£22.4 million) in Series A financing from a syndicate of leading European and US life science investors.

Based at Babraham, Convergence Pharmaceuticals is an independent biotech company that has acquired clinical assets from GlaxoSmithKline. The company will be led by Dr Clive Dix together with a strong management team including former GSK scientific experts in the field of pain. Proceeds of the financing will be used to accelerate the clinical development of the Company’s pipeline programmes.Convergence Pharmaceuticals has Phase I and Phase II clinical programmes in development and a pipeline of six earlier stage compounds. Drugs within the pipeline target the major points of convergence in chronic pain signalling through modulation of specific ion-channels. Convergence Pharmaceuticals, which has a well validated approach to pain therapy, will immediately initiate Phase II proof of concept studies in neuropathic pain with the company’s lead drug, a voltage-gated sodium channel blocker (CNV1014802), and a Phase I study of its first-in-class voltage-gated calcium channel blocker (CNV2197944) for the treatment of neuropathic and inflammatory pain including osteoarthritis. Both of these compounds have demonstrated efficacy, safety and tolerability profiles to date and have functional properties that differentiate them from currently available chronic pain treatments.Convergence aims to develop its pipeline to address the severe unmet medical need in chronic pain, a significant economic burden where more than 270 million people worldwide suffer.The chronic pain market is currently valued at $30 billion and is forecast to reach more than $47 billion by 2023 (with an expected 22 per cent of the market being provided by novel pain therapies). Currently available treatments, including opioids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, are often associated with negative side-effect profiles and limited efficacy and therefore do not offer a long-term solution. This highlights the importance of Convergence Pharmaceuticals’ goals to develop novel, efficacious analgesics with improved pharmacology and safety profiles.Dr Dix has managed successful exits from Auralis and PowderMed Ltd, the latter of which he co-founded in 2004 and sold to Pfizer Inc for more than $300M in 2006. Clive was previously head of R & D at PowderJect Pharmaceuticals plc and prior to that was UK research director for Glaxo Wellcome. He was most recently chairman of the UK’s BioIndustry Association. The company’s R & D will be led by Simon Tate, previously VP, Pain and Epilepsy Discovery Performance Unit within GSK’s Neurosciences Centre of Excellence for Drug Discovery and now chief scientific officer of Convergence Pharmaceuticals. The new company has also attracted Brenda Reynolds as chief operating officer. She was a founder and chief operating officer of PowderMed Ltd and has extensive experience in the healthcare sector.As part of the transaction with GSK, the clinical-stage assets and associated IP have been successfully transferred from GSK to Convergence Pharmaceuticals. The company and its team of expert scientists will be based at the Babraham Research Campus.Convergence’s new shareholders include Apposite Capital, New Leaf Venture Partners and SV Life Sciences and the new directors include Chris Hollowood, Liam Ratcliffe and Kate Bingham. GSK has taken an 18 per cent minority equity stake.Dr Dix said: “We are delighted to have worked closely with GSK to successfully transfer these clinical assets to Convergence Pharmaceuticals. “The lead compounds offer critical advantages for the development and commercialisation of novel analgesics to address the need for innovative treatments in the high value chronic pain market. “Our team of experts bring a strong knowledge of the science and pipeline and will focus on advancing these drugs through clinical development. We look forward to exploring commercial opportunities for these compounds at the relevant time. “Given market conditions, we are pleased to have raised such a significant amount of funding – one of the largest European biotechnology Series A funding rounds in recent years – and feel this is a strong endorsement of the quality of the company, its products, science and the staff within it.”

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