Dutch biotech upstart jumps into high-stakes CETP game with $18.6M raise

With Big Pharma outfits pursuing the same big target, biotech startup Dezima Pharma has landed first-round venture and loan financing totaling $18.6 million to advance a compound in the controversial class of cholesterol drugs known as CETP inhibitors.  

Over the past several years CETP programs from Pfizer ($PFE) and Roche ($RHHBY) have ended in defeat, and industry watchers have been skeptical about the prospects of Merck's ($MRK) and Eli Lilly's ($LLY) ongoing efforts to strike gold with experimental drugs in this class. Yet backers of Dezima, founded in 2012 by Professor John Kastelein from the University of Amsterdam, believe that the fresh startup's DEZ-001 has a "best-in-class" profile.

Which could explain why Forbion Capital Partners, which seed-funded Kastelein's entrepreneurial effort, and BioGeneration Ventures co-led the Series A round, with money from New Science Ventures, to raise 9.8 million euros. Dezima also grabbed a 4.4 million ($5.72 million) loan from a government program in The Netherlands to fund the ambitious program.

Given past failures of high-profile CETP inhibitors, plenty of naysayers surfaced when Dezima announced an in-licensing deal for its lead drug (previously TA-8995) from Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma, a company representative told FierceBiotech in an email.Yet now there are some serious venture dollars and investors behind the program.

"We are extremely pleased with the financing of Dezima Pharma and the significant loan facility from the Dutch government that together will enable Dezima to fund the further clinical development of its CETP inhibitor DEZ-001 and the establishment of a dyslipidemia pipeline," Sander van Deventer, Dezima's interim CEO and General Partner of Forbion Capital Partners, said in a statement. "We believe that the combined lowering of LDL cholesterol and the unprecedented reduction of LP(a) make DEZ-001 the best in class CETP inhibitor."

We'll see whether DEZ-001 lives up to the "best-in-class" billing.

- see the release

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