Published in Health Care
Mark Gurney, founder, chairman and CEO of Tetra Discovery Partners LLC. Mark Gurney, founder, chairman and CEO of Tetra Discovery Partners LLC. COURTESY PHOTO

Drug developer Tetra secures $40 million investment from Japanese pharmaceutical firm

BY Tuesday, December 18, 2018 06:30pm

GRAND RAPIDS — A $40 million investment by a Japanese pharmaceutical company provides Tetra Discovery Partners Inc. a strategic partner and capital to test and commercialize a new drug compound that could treat Alzheimer’s disease and a form of autism.

Shionogi & Co. Ltd.’s investment potentially could quadruple to $160 million through additional payments if the Grand Rapids-based Tetra Discovery meets clinical, regulatory and commercialization milestones, as well as through future royalties.

The initial $40 million strategic investment comes through an upfront $5 million payment for a licensing fee and a $35 million minority equity investment in Tetra Discovery. In exchange, Tetra Discovery granted Shionogi & Co. development rights to the drug compound in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

The investment enables Tetra Discovery to move the drug compound, known as BPM 14770, through mid-stage clinical trials as a treatment for both Alzheimer’s and Fragile X Syndrome, the most common genetic form of autism that causes intellectual disability.

“It gives us the runway to achieve proof of concept in patients with our lead program,” founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Gurney said of the Shionogi investment. “Should either the autism trial or the Alzheimer’s trial report out positive results, that would be our stepping stone to an IPO.”

The Phase 2 clinical trial for Fragile X, which affects about 30,000 people in the U.S., will involve 30 adult patients and take place at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago with Dr. Elizabeth Berry-Kravis, the director of a research program and clinic that provides care for more than 600 patients with Fragile X. The trial has already recruited about one-third of the patients needed and should conclude toward the end of 2019 or in early 2020, Gurney said.

The Alzheimer’s trial, intended to prove the drug compound can improve memory in the early stages of the disease, will involve 260 patients at 40 to 60 clinical sites in the U.S. The trial, targeted to start in 2019, will take 18 to 24 months to enroll patients and three months to complete, Gurney said.

“This collaboration, if successful, will enable us to move one step closer in realizing a more vigorous society in which patients can be relieved from debilitating central nervous system conditions,” said Dr. Isao Teshirogi, president and CEO of Shionogi & Co., said in a statement announcing the investment in Tetra Discovery.

Shionogi & Co. developed Cymbalta, which treats nerve pain, and Intuniv, which is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Tetra Discovery initially connected with Shionogi in 2017 at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization conference in San Diego, Calif. Shionogi represents the “ideal partner” for Tetra Discovery because the company has the expertise and “shares our interests in developing innovative medicines for patients with debilitating central nervous system conditions,” Gurney said.GRAND RAPIDS — A $40 million investment by a Japanese pharmaceutical company provides Tetra Discovery Partners Inc. a strategic partner and capital to test and commercialize a new drug compound that could treat Alzheimer’s disease and a form of autism.

“This is the partner that we’ve been looking for,” said Gurney, who started Tetra Discovery in 2012 with $2,000.

Gurney went on to raise $30 million to support research and development work on Tetra’s compound through a public-private model that includes securing $23 million in grant funding received from the National Institutes for Health, plus $7 million from private investors prior to the Shionogi & Co. investment.

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