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Startup raises $40M in funding

April 11, 2017
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Bob Baltera
Bob Baltera. Courtesy Frazier Healthcare Partners

A pharmaceutical startup in the region has re-branded and closed a $40-million Series A financing round.

Kalamazoo-based Cirius Therapeutics, formerly Octeta Therapeutics, said today it will use the $40-million round — led by Frazier Healthcare Partners, an investment firm, and Hellerup, Denmark-based Novo A/S, a holding company in the Novo Group — to complete its phase 2b study of MSDC-0602K, an insulin sensitizer. MSDC-0602K will be used for the treatment of patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, and liver fibrosis.

In completing the round, Bob Baltera, Howard Dittrich and Brian Farmer will join Cirius’ management team, operating from a new office in San Diego, while the startup maintains research and development operations in Kalamazoo.

"We believe MSDC-0602K has the potential to be a critical therapeutic tool for treating patients with NASH," said Baltera, who will serve as Cirius’ CEO.

"A great deal of experimental data, including results from a phase-2 trial in patients with type 2 diabetes, has been generated, demonstrating that these next-generation insulin sensitizers act in a novel way to positively impact the underlying metabolic parameters that drive NASH."

Investors

In addition to Frazier Healthcare Partners and Novo A/S, Adams Street Partners and Renaissance Venture Capital Fund were new investors in Cirius.

Existing investor Hopen Life Sciences Ventures also contributed to the round.

Frazier Healthcare Partners’ Dan Estes and Novo A/S’ Nilesh Kumar will join Baltera in assuming board seats, alongside current board members David Van Andel, Mike Jandernoa and Robert Zerbe.

Executive team

In conjunction with Baltera’s appointment as Cirius' CEO, Dittrich will come on board as chief medical officer and Farmer as chief business officer.

Each of the three new members of Cirius’ executive team have been involved with venture-backed companies, including Amira Pharmaceuticals, where Baltera was CEO, Dittrich was chief medical officer and Farmer was corporate development leader.

MSDC-0602K

The insulin sensitizer addresses insulin resistance, considered to be a key factor in NASH, a severe, rapidly progressive form of fatty liver disease, which can become cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Cirius said MSDC-0602K has shown promise in NASH studies, reducing inflammation and showing significant improvement in fibrosis, but its use has been limited due to safety concerns.

MSDC-0602K was developed based on Cirius Co-Founder and VP of R&D Jerry Colca’s work with a first-generation insulin sensitizer, pioglitazone, and his "decades of research" into developing a next-generation approach.

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