Former Genzyme CEO Henri Termeer Leads $10 Million Series B for Autoimmune Company Artax Biopharma

Former Genzyme CEO Henri Termeer Leads $10 Million Series B for Autoimmune Company Artax Biopharma
September 22, 2015
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Cambridge, Mass.-based Artax Biopharma announced today that it had closed on a Series B round of fundraising worth $10 million. The round was led by Henri Termeer, former chief executive officer of Genzyme, and Advent Life Sciences. Termeer and Advent were joined by A.M. Pappas and other existing investors.

The money raised will be used to push the company’s lead compound, AX-024, into Phase Ib and IIa clinical trials for autoimmune diseases. AX-024 modulates T-cell Receptor (TCR) signaling in autoimmune T-cells. The company also plans to work to identify more Nck inhibitors in a deal with Balbino Alarcon, a scientist at the Spanish National Council (CSIC). Nck is involved in signaling from receptor tyrosine kinases to downstream effectors, which are involved in T-cell activation. Notable autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis.

“The selective inhibition of Nck is an area of tremendous therapeutic potential for treating autoimmune diseases and one where Artax leads the world’s research efforts,” said Damia Tormo, founder and chief executive officer of Artax in a statement. “As our AX-024 program advances in the clinic, we continue developing additional Nck-specific compounds. We are thrilled with the confidence the new investors have in Artax and its technology. They will help us realize the full potential of our products and enable us to bring them to patients in need.”

As part of the financing round, Termeer and Raj Parekh, general partner at Advent Life Sciences, will join the company’s board of directors. Balbino Alarcon is the company’s chief science officer. The board of directors is made up of Torno, Termeer, Parekh, and three executives formerly with Eli Lilly, Rob Armstrong, Gino Santini, and Javier Garcia.

In 2011, Termeer sold Genzyme to Sanofi-Aventis SA, receiving $158.4 million. Sanofi paid more than $20 billion for the company. Since then he has been funding and advising biotech startups in the Boston area. Those companies include X4 Pharmaceuticals, launched in 2012 with seed funding from Termeer.

Termeer is the head of what has been dubbed the Geynzyme Diaspora, a group of executives formerly with Genzyme who went on to start, fund or run biopharma companies.

When they need help or advice, “There’s always someone to call,” said former Genzyme executive Geoff McDonough, currently chief executive officer of Stockholm-based Swedish Orphan Biovitrum AB to The Boston Globe. “And if you can’t think of someone, you can call Henri and he’ll suggest someone.”

“Henri’s philosophy was to bring in high-potential people from all walks of life,” said Gail Maderis, former Genzyme executive who since has run various biotech companies and industry trade groups in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is currently president and chief executive officer of Antiva Biosciences, Inc. “There was a feeling that we were in a new industry and we could help shape it. And the cream rose to the top.”

Termeer co-founded Lysosomal Therapeutics, and has backed Dutch biotech ProQR and Auraq Biosciences. He also is on the board of Moderna and Aveo.

“Artax is pursuing breakthrough science: a targeted immunomodulatory approach for autoimmune diseases that does not compromise the protective function of T-cells to external threats,” Termeer said in a statement. “Artax has the potential to treat a range of autoimmune conditions in which current therapies are not optimal and may result in serious side effects.”

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