Former Pfizer CEO's Boston Startup Centrexion Lands $67M for Ph3 Osteoarthritis Pain Drug


Centrexion Therapeutics closed on a Series D financing worth $67 million to develop its knee osteoarthritis (OA) drug in Phase III.

The round was led by New Enterprise Associates with participation from new and existing investors, including Quan Capital, ArrowMark Partners, investment funds advised by Clough Capital Partners, InterWest Partners, 6 Dimensions Capital, and Efung Capital.

The monies raised will be used to advance the company’s Phase III lead program, CNTX-4975 for chronic pain related to knee OA. The drug is a highly differentiated, novel, non-opioid designed to be injected straight into the joint. In earlier trials, a single injection gave substantial, quick-onset pain reduction in moderate-to-severe OA. In the Phase IIb TRIUMPH trial, which was completed recently, pain reduction began within days and lasted through six months. It also showed less knee stiffness and improved joint function.

Oddly enough, CNTX-4975 is a synthetic, pure form of capsaicin, the ingredient in chili peppers that causes their sensation of heat. Capsaicin has been used as a topical analgesic, but Centrexion has developed a patented procedure for injecting the compound. It works by targeting the TRPV1 receptor, deactivating pain fibers that deliver signals from the site of the pain to the brain.

The company’s chief executive officer is Jeff Kindler, formerly chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer. Kindler told Endpoints News, “We’ve built an extraordinary team with a track record of development and commercialization. In our company’s fairly short existence, we’ve managed to build the largest pipeline of non-opioid and non-steroidal pain treatments in the industry.”

Those members include Randall Stevens, chief medical officer, who was formerly vice president, head of Inflammation Clinical Development for Celgene; James Campbell, founder, president and chief scientific officer, professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and former chief executive officer of Arcion Therapeutics; Peter Hanson, chief veterinary officer, formerly head of research and development and medical affairs for Abbott Animal Health; Kerrie Brady, founder and chief business officer, formerly chief operations officer for Vallinex; and Gregg Beloff, chief financial officer.

As part of the financing round, Sara Nayeem, partner at NEA, and Stella Xu, managing director of Quan Capital, joined Centexion’s board of directors.

“We made extraordinary progress with our clinical programs in 2017, including the positive Phase IIb TRIUMPH clinical trial of CNTX-4975, which showed one of the largest reductions of pain associated with knee osteoarthritis reported in any placebo controlled clinical trial,” Kindler said in a statement. “These results pave the way for our Phase III program to commence in the first quarter of 2018. With our CNTX-4975 data demonstrating an impressive degree of pain relief and an adverse event profile similar to placebo, we are looking forward to advancing this potential new therapy, which we believe can benefit millions of people suffering from chronic pain. We will also further advance our deep clinical pipeline of other non-opioid therapies that address new and emerging biological targets for pain.”

The company’s other programs include inflammation, neuropathy and superficial pain.

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