My Turn: Richard G. Horan: Focus on RI's future in biotech
By Richard G. Horan
In 2010, a new venture called Mnemosyne Pharmaceuticals was launched here in Rhode Island. The company was built around a team of drug discovery scientists from Pfizer’s neuroscience research labs in Groton, Connecticut. Targeting drugs to treat neuropsychiatric disorders, the company merged with another biotech company to form Cadent Therapeutics, now based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Cadent has raised more than $50 million and has advanced two drugs into clinical development, one partnered with Novartis for depression. A third program in preclinical development is focused on a novel treatment for schizophrenia, the original inspiration for the company’s launch.
About the same time, a company called CytoSolv was founded by Brown-affiliated scientists with deep expertise in encapsulated cell therapy. In 2015, CytoSolv merged with Semma Therapeutics, a startup out of Harvard aiming to develop an encapsulated stem-cell therapy as a cure for Type I diabetes. Thus far, Semma has raised in excess of $160 million.
While headquartered in Cambridge, the company is presently building out manufacturing facilities in the Washington Park section of Providence, projecting significant expansion in that location as its technology moves into clinical development.
In 2016, MindImmune Therapeutics was formed, again built around a team of ex-Pfizer scientists. MindImmune is pioneering a fundamentally new approach to neurodegenerative disorders, targeting major unsolved problems in Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease. The company was launched in collaboration with the Ryan Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rhode Island, in hopes that its roots will become more firmly germinated in Rhode Island during the company’s initial phase of development. A recent investment by Pfizer strengthens possibilities in this regard.
In each case, these ventures are capitalizing upon aspirations, expertise and resources in high abundance within our region. It is an economic opportunity zone that stretches from the ecosystem of Boston/Cambridge, one