Ex-Merck executives launch Cardurion, with a kick-start from Takeda

Boston area startup Cardurion Pharma has only been in operation a few months but has already picked up a big pharma partner to help it hit the ground running.

Japan's Takeda is jumpstarting the cardiovascular disease specialist by providing a 12-person research team at its R&D site in Shonan, Japan, along with lab space, development resources and licenses to a portfolio of preclinical drug candidates.

For Takeda, the deal ties in with the strategy spearheaded by chief medical and scientific officer Andy Plump and CEO Christophe Weber to push some of its home-grown research projects out into external hands.

Cardurion was founded by two physician scientists, Daniel Bloomfield M.D. and Michael Mendelsohn M.D., who have extensive experience in cardiovascular medicine and have garnered drug discovery and development expertise from senior positions at Merck & Co. Cardurion's board also includes Leerink Partner's Kenneth Novack and Edward Mascoli, CEO of Karos Pharmaceuticals.

CEO Bloomfield (pictured) has experience as a cardiologist on the faculty of Columbia University, and most recently served as senior vice president, global clinical development for Merck's cardiovascular, diabetes and women's health unit, with responsibility during his tenure for programs including cholesterol drug Zetia/Vytorin (ezetimibe), anti-platelet therapy Zontivity (vorapaxar) and CETP inhibitor candidate anacetrapib.

Mendelsohn is executive chairman of the new biotech, and previously served as Senior Vice President and head of cardiovascular research for Merck Research Laboratories and chief scientific officer of the Molecular Cardiology Research Institute at Tufts Medical Centre. Aside from his role at Cardurion, he is also director of Foghorn Therapeutics and a venture partner with SV Health.

"This partnership demonstrates our shared commitment to developing transformative, novel therapies that can have a meaningful impact for the millions of people around the world suffering from heart disease," said Bloomfield. 

"The scientific collaboration we’re establishing with Takeda will propel our preclinical efforts and ultimately help get important therapies into the hands of patients in need."

For now, the identity of the programs being transferred from Takeda are staying under wraps, with Cardurion saying merely that it is pursuing "novel, next-generation therapeutics for the treatment of heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases."

It's not the first time that Takeda has backed a previously unknown startup with a set of preclinical candidates. In 2015 the Japanese firm said it was pledging up to $500 million to support Gencia, handing over rights to some early-stage drugs focusing on inflammation and oncology.