Asceneuron SA, an emerging leader in the development of first-in-class small molecules targeting tauopathies such as progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), Alzheimer’s disease and related neurodegenerative diseases, today announced the closing of a Series A financing of CHF 30 million (USD 30.6 million). The financing round was led by Sofinnova Partners which becomes the largest financial investor in the company. They are joined by new investors SR One, Kurma Partners and Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc. (JJDC). The company’s founding investors MS Ventures also participated. In conjunction with this round, Henrijette Richter of Sofinnova Partners, Deborah Harland of SR One, Vanessa Malier of Kurma Partners and Hakan Goker of MS Ventures have joined the Company’s Board of Directors along with a representative of JJDC.
Asceneuron SA was created in 2012 as part of the Entrepreneur Partnership Program, implemented by MS Ventures to support the creation of spin-off companies from Merck Serono, and has since then made rapid progress under the leadership of the founders Dirk Beher, Chief Executive Officer and Christoph Wiessner, Chief Operating Officer.
The proceeds from this financing round will support the development of Asceneuron’s orally bioavailable O-GlcNAcase inhibitor ASN-561 up to the completion of a pivotal proof-of-concept trial in the orphan tauopathy PSP. ASN-561 has the potential to become the first oral treatment for tauopathies, a group of neurodegenerative diseases which includes several orphan conditions.
Henrijette Richter, Partner at Sofinnova Partners said “We believe Asceneuron’s innovative approach based on a small molecule inhibitor has the potential to radically transform the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, one of the largest healthcare problems of this century, and provide patients with solutions that will address disease progression”. She added “We were impressed by what the team has been able to deliver since the company’s inception and are thrilled to be partnering with Asceneuron to enable them to realize their vision”.
Hakan Goker, Senior Investment Director at MS Ventures, added “We are very proud that the quality of Asceneuron’s science and the progress they have made to date have attracted such a high caliber investor group and we look forward to working with them to build the company further.”
“We are excited to welcome such a high profile syndicate of investors in recognition of the quality of our team and the value of our lead asset ASN-561”, said Dirk Beher, Chief Executive Officer and a Founder of Asceneuron. “The company is now in a position to progress development of ASN-561 to the clinic whilst expanding our emerging pipeline. We are looking forward to working with the new members of our Board of Directors to create a leading company in the field of Neurodegeneration.”
Asceneuron researches and develops oral small molecule therapeutics targeting tauopathies for treating progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), other related neurodegenerative diseases and Alzheimer’s disease. The lead product, an O-GlcNAcase inhibitor that in preclinical studies has been demonstrated to modulate tau pathology, has entered the critical regulatory studies to allow its entry into human clinical testing. Neuronal deposits of the microtubule-associated tau protein are a common feature of tauopathies and known to be a major contributor to neurodegenerative diseases. For more information, please visit www.asceneuron.com.
About Sofinnova Partners
Sofinnova Partners is an independent venture capital firm based in Paris, France. For more than 40 years, the firm has backed nearly 500 companies at different stages of their development – pure creations, spin-offs, as well as turnaround situations – and worked alongside Europe’s key entrepreneurs in the Life Sciences industry. With €1.3 billion of funds under management, Sofinnova Partners has created market leaders with its experienced team and hands-on approach in building portfolio companies through to exit. For more information, please visit www.sofinnova.fr.
About SR One
SR One is the independent corporate venture capital arm of GlaxoSmithKline. The firm invests globally in emerging life science companies that are pursuing innovative science which will significantly impact medical care. Since 1985, SR One has invested in more than 140 companies, and its current portfolio includes approximately 40 private and public companies. For more information, please visit www.srone.com.
About Kurma Partners
Kurma Partners is a key European player in the financing of Innovation in Healthcare and Biotechnology, from pre-seed to growth capital, notably through Kurma Biofund I and II, and strategic partnerships with prestigious European research and medical institutions. Kurma Biofund II, its second fund, is the first Venture Capital fund dedicated to financing innovation in the rare diseases space. For more information, please visit www.kurmapartners.com.
About Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC
Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc. is the venture capital subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson that has been investing since 1973 in the medical device, diagnostic, pharmaceutical, and consumer health areas. JJDC’s goal is to create opportunities that meet the strategic needs of its operating affiliates while providing visibility to innovative emerging technology, businesses and business models. JJDC invests in companies across the continuum from early stage seed investments to advanced stages of series venture management. For more information, please visit www.jjdevcorp.com.
About MS Ventures
MS Ventures is the strategic corporate venture capital fund of Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical business of Merck. The fund was established in March 2009 and focuses primarily on early stage investments. MS Ventures has a strategic mandate and invests in companies that develop products and/or technologies that could benefit patients in therapeutic areas relevant to Merck Serono. MS Ventures has a total of € 140 million under management for strategic investments, investments through its Israel BioIncubator and for spin-offs from the Merck Serono organization. For more information, please visit www.ms-ventures.com.
About Merck Serono
Merck Serono is the biopharmaceutical business of Merck. With headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany, Merck Serono offers leading brands in 150 countries to help patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, infertility, endocrine and metabolic disorders as well as cardiovascular diseases. In the United States and Canada, EMD Serono operates as a separately incorporated subsidiary of Merck Serono. Merck Serono discovers, develops, manufactures and markets prescription medicines of both chemical and biological origin in specialist indications. We have an enduring commitment to deliver novel therapies in our core focus areas of neurology, oncology, immuno-oncology and immunology. For more information, please visit www.merckserono.com.