Authored by Karl Simpson
David Mott is a man who is used to making a difference to the life sciences landscape. The ex-CEO of MedImmune was instrumental in selling the company to AstraZeneca for $15.6bn. Since 2008, he has been shaping things from the investment side as General Partner at New Enterprise Associates or NEA. Late last year, NEA hauled in one of the biggest funds ever, as they collected $2.6bn for investments and nearly a third of this money is expected to find its way to healthcare, biotech and pharma investments. This potentially means the fund is looking to weigh in with some $700m+ for a sector which has faced challenging investment conditions, especially in the traditional venture capital arena. This has meant biotech professionals have looked for other sources of capital and corporate venture money has certainly been a significant component of that picture.
David Mott was cited in the 13 people to watch for 2013 and Liftstream understands that he is very interested in the rare disease and orphan drug market. Supporting this viewpoint is the fact that he has stumped up some of the fund’s cash for an exciting new orphan drug accelerator, Cydan LLC. The orphan drug and rare disease category is attracting a lot of interest right now and rightly so. There are some considerable opportunities in this area and today there remains a dramatically underserved therapeutic market for the estimated 7000 rare diseases which exist. Already on the board of Prosensa, the Dutch biotech partnered with GSK to develop exon skipping products for the treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Mott is now backing this newly created venture.
Cydan has been founded and will be led by Dr. Cristina Csimma, who fulfils the CEO role. Dr. Csimma has secured an initial tranch of $16m from Mott’s NEA, Pfizer’s corporate venture fund and Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. Having personally attended the International Rare Diseases Research Consortium in Dublin last week, I can confirm both Dr. Csimma and CSO – Dr. James McArthur were both in attendance, presenting the new company to the rare diseases community and wasting no time in launching this venture. There is a lot of focus currently on ‘de-risking’ of therapeutic assets ready for further development in either the larger product acquiring pharmas or as part of a stand-alone upstart entity. Cydan wishes to use its collective drug development expertise and strong connections across the rare disease market to find, de-risk and advance rare disease programs. Their approach will see them seek collaborations across the sector, working with biotechs, pharma, academia and patient foundations, eventually spinning out assets.
Dr. Csimma has a perfect combination of experience to lead a venture of this type, with a track record in the investment arena with Clarus Ventures, having worked in drug development companies Virdante Pharmaceuticals and Wyeth, as well as being closely attached to the rare disease initiative Treat-NMD which has been instrumental in driving the global coordination of patient registries in the Muscular Dystrophy area.
With the team assembled and the backing of a key player like David Mott, Liftstream looks forward to seeing what new programs Cambridge MA based Cydan can give life to in the rare diseases area which might help meet the lofty goals of 200 new therapies by 2020 set by IRDiRC.