An Ann Arbor-based start-up drug company with roots in the University of Michigan scored a $62 million buy-in from outside investors because of its early work on treatments for several medical conditions, including some affecting women.
The so-called Series B investment secured by Millendo Therapeutics follows an earlier round of investment that raised $16 million in 2012, company officials said.
The $62-million investment is the largest disclosed investment of its kind in Michigan history, according to Emily Heintz, associate director of the Michigan Venture Capital Association.
The biopharmaceutical company is focused on developing new approaches for the treatment of orphan and specialty endocrine diseases. It was previously known as Atterocor, and traces its inspiration in part to a fabled football family.
University officials say its endocrine oncology program was developed to create an expert level of research and patient care for an extremely rare disease that took the life of Millie Schembechler, wife of former U-M football coach Bo Schembechler.
Gary Hammer, one of Millendo’s cofounders, holds the Millie Schembechler Professorship of Adrenal Cancer at U-M. Millendo is newly named in honor of Schembechler and the company’s focus on endocrine disorders.
Now the company will try to prove the effectiveness of two treatments currently in the mid-stages of the testing process after some initial success, including one recently licensed by Millendo from another drugmaker.
“I think they are both attractive drug development opportunities,” Millendo President and CEO Julia Owens said. “We have multiple shots on goal here.”
One drug under development seeks to decrease steroid production that can be misregulated and cause complications as a result of a tumor or congenital defect, Owens said.
The other drug under testing is a result of a new license agreement with drugmaker AstraZeneca for the worldwide development and commercialization rights to a proposed treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome, There are no approved therapies for the syndrome, which Millendo officials said is the most common endocrine disease affecting up to 15% of women.
In the biotech world, it typically takes about a decade to develop and test a new drug before bringing it to market. Owens said only about 1 in 10 such drugs clear all of the necessary testing as well as regulatory hurdles and also have enough money to reach the increasingly competitive marketplace.
Some start-up businesses have said it remains a challenge to persuade top talent to leave either coast for a job in Michigan. But Owens said the Ann Arbor start-up world has benefited in part from the employees who remained in the region after Pfizer closed its Ann Arbor campus in 2007.
Today, Millendo has 13 employees in its downtown Ann Arbor office and expects to bolster its ranks this year, Owens said.
Led by New Enterprise Associates, new investors in Millendo’s latest round were Roche Venture Fund, Adams Street Partners, Altitude Life Science Ventures, Longwood Fund and Michigan-based Renaissance Venture Capital Fund. They joined current Millendo investors Frazier Healthcare Partners, Osage University Partners, 5AM Ventures and the Regents of the University of Michigan under the Michigan Investment in New Technology Start-up program.