LOS ANGELES--Jan. 31, 2002--Neurion Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a development-stage pharmaceutical company whose mission is to discover and optimize novel small molecule drugs for the treatment of diseases and disorders of the central nervous system ("CNS"), announced today that the company has received seed funding from Convergent Ventures, a life science venture capital firm located in Los Angeles.
Neurion Pharmaceuticals is based on pioneering, interdisciplinary research in chemistry and molecular neurobiology performed by its founding scientists, Dennis A. Dougherty, Ph.D., the George Grant Hoag Professor of Chemistry, and Henry A. Lester, Ph.D., the Bren Professor of Biology, at the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena. Dougherty's and Lester's In-vivo Nonsense Suppression Methodology, enables the systematic probing and determination of the structure and function of ligand-gated ion channels -- key regulatory proteins that are important targets for drug discovery.
Diseases and disorders of the central nervous system, including such conditions as Alzheimer's Disease, stroke, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Huntington's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, pain disorders, migraines and epilepsy, are believed to affect over 80 million Americans. Sales of drugs to treat these conditions exceed $50 billion per year in the U.S.
Jonathan Lasch, Ph.D., Managing Director at Convergent Ventures, who will serve as Neurion's President and CEO, said "It was clear from our very first meeting with Dennis Dougherty and Henry Lester that their research may one day lead to new treatments for what many believe to be the last frontier for medicine: diseases of the brain." He added, "The lack of detailed knowledge about CNS drug targets and the interaction of potential drugs with these targets has been a major challenge for the pharmaceutical industry. Neurion plans to address this challenge."
The Company's technology is intended to solve a critical problem facing the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries worldwide -- the lack of precise structural and functional information about important proteins found in the brain that are thought to hold a key to successful treatment of debilitating and sometimes fatal neurological diseases. These proteins, called membrane-bound proteins, have resisted most attempts to characterize their structure and function. Unlike so-called soluble proteins, which are widely recognized targets for drug therapy outside the central nervous system, membrane-bound proteins are not amenable to characterization by standard research tools, such as X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). Neurion's technology, which employs the tools of organic synthesis, molecular biology, electrophysiology and computer modeling, will enable the company and its strategic partners to probe key membrane proteins in ways never before possible. Neurion believes that its technology will enable the more precise characterization of critical drug/target interactions, thereby creating the possibility of new CNS drugs that are safer and more effective than currently available alternatives.
Dr. Dennis Dougherty, one of Neurion's scientific founders, said, "My colleague, Dr. Henry Lester, and I believe that our research is of great relevance to our counterparts in the pharmaceutical industry. The formation of Neurion will enable us to begin the important process of transferring our research from the lab bench to the marketplace. With funding and management support from Convergent Ventures, we are able to accelerate the company's development and establish the critical business infrastructure and strategic relationships that will help us to be successful."
Neurion is pursuing collaborations with major pharmaceutical companies to develop and optimize drugs, while building the internal infrastructure and capabilities that will be necessary to create its own proprietary drug pipeline.
Drs. Dougherty and Lester will co-chair Neurion's Scientific Advisory Board and serve on the company's Board of Directors. They will maintain their academic positions at Caltech. In addition to funding, Convergent Ventures will contribute the initial management team, including Dr. Lasch, President, CEO and Director, Curt LaBelle, M.D., M.B.A., Director of Business Development, Nima Shiva, M.B.A., Director of Strategic Development and William Adams, CFO. Kenneth Aldrich, J.D. and William Robbins, M.B.A., Managing Directors at Convergent Ventures, will serve as Director and Chairman of the Board of Neurion, respectively. The company expects to locate its headquarters and labs in Pasadena.
CONTACT: Convergent Ventures Jonathan
G. Lasch, 310/444-3241, Ext. 16 William L. Robbins, 310/444-3241, Ext.
©2002 Engel Publishing Partners