Serial Biotech Entrepreneur Raises Money to Launch New Startup DMD Therapeutics

Published: Aug 15, 2016

Serial Biotech Entrepreneur Raises Money to Launch New Startup DMD Therapeutics August 12, 2016
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Serial biotech entrepreneur Ron Berenson is at it again. He filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that he is starting a new company, DMD Therapeutics, which will be based in Seattle. The SEC filing classifies the company as “other,” with a total offering amount of $600,000. Berenson is listed as president.

Berenson declined to discuss the company with GeekWire, but a spokesperson for the University of Washington’s CoMotion did say it was a UW spin-off. CoMotion works with faculty to accelerate the commercialization of research discoveries.

In a CoMotion article, “To CEO Or Not To CEO?” Berenson was quoted as saying, “Academics often don’t realize what great stuff they’re sitting on. One research team wanted to use their work to heat and release drugs for cancer. I treat cancer patients, and I know that isn’t really feasible. But then we discussed other potential applications. It turned out the same technology could be used to make drugs that usually only last in the human body for 10 minutes stay there for several weeks! That’s a huge advance for cancer treatment.”

Berenson was an oncologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in the 1980s before going on to found several biotech startups. Those include HemaQuest Pharmaceuticals, a private firm that develops small molecular drugs for anemia and other hemoglobin disorders, and Xcyte, which closed up shop in 2005. Xcyte had pulled in more than $150 million in financing, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had problems with the clinical trial design to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Xcyte unloaded its core technology for $5 million to Invitrogen, then merged the rest of its assets, basically cash and its Nasdaq sticker, to Scottish company Cyclacel.

He currently is the president and chief executive officer of ImmunoMod Consulting, Aequus BioPharma, and KitoTech, which is also a spinoff from the University of Washington.

At this point, there is no mention of what areas—even broadly—DMD Therapeutics will be focused on. The use of “DMD” in the name of the company makes one wonder if it might focus on Duchene’s Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a rare muscle-wasting disease, but so far there’s no information to support that speculation.

It wouldn’t be completely isolated speculation however. Berenson and fellow researcher Jeffrey Chamberlain with ImmunoMod and the University of Washington have received $25,000 in funding for DMD research from “Ryan’s Quest,” for “Assessing the therapeutic impact of cannabidiol on muscular structure and function.”

With Michael Regnier, Chamberlain and Berenson conduct research on the effects of relaxin to treat DMD.

If that is the case, DMD Therapeutics would be entering into a volatile and competitive area that has a highly political element to it. Earlier in the year, the FDA turned down San Rafael, California-based BioMarin Pharmaceutical ’s application for Kyndrisa (drisapersen) to treat DMD. In an even bigger and more dramatic story, Sarepta Therapeutics has been involved in a lengthy process of trying to get its eteplirsen approved for DMD. Most recently, on Aug. 4, after delays by the FDA, notice that the company’s trial was likely to start again was posted on clinictrials.gov.

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