Former GSK employees form independent biotechnology company

27 Oct 2010

Convergence Pharmaceuticals was created in 2010 by 12 GlaxoSmithKline colleagues, led by Simon Tate (now CSO), joined by former PowderJect entrepreneurs Clive Dix (now CEO) and Brenda Reynolds (now COO). David Witty, founding member of Convergence Pharmaceuticals, and member of the Fine Chemicals Group, tells us more.

What drove the creation of Convergence Pharmaceuticals?
DW: The decision by GSK to exit the pain field for its own strategic reasons provided the opportunity for me and a team of my scientific colleagues to use our knowledge of pain drug discovery and development to create this new therapeutically-focused company. We will target points of convergence in pain signaling, a strategy which will deliver novel analgesics with higher efficacy.

What does the Convergence pipeline look like at the moment?
DW: We have two clinical-stage compounds and a pipeline of differentiated follow on compounds for sustainability. The first clinical compound, CNV1014802, is a potent, state-dependent sodium channel blocker. Phase I trials have showed that it is very well tolerated with a favourable pharmacokinetic and side-effect profile. We are now initiating Phase II trials in neuropathic pain.

Our second compound, CNV2197944, is a first-in-class selective state-dependent calcium channel blocker. It shows broad and potent efficacy in a range of preclinical models, and has the potential to treat chronic pain; we are now initiating first-time-in-human studies.

What is the market for chronic pain medicines like at the moment?
DW: The chronic pain market is worth $30bn annually, and is predicted to grow at more than 5% per annum to $47bn by 2023. Unfortunately, many patients obtain little or no relief from existing analgesics; adverse events often limit the use or duration of dosing. The economic burden of chronic pain in the US is more than $100bn per annum, with some 36 million people suffering chronic low back pain or sciatica, and over 10 million suffering neuropathic pain. Efficacy is by far the greatest unmet need, so it is imperative we develop novel, more effective analgesics.

Was it difficult to raise financing?
DW: Our exciting portfolio, scientific presentations and experienced management team attracted the backing of a venture capital syndicate formed from SVLS, Apposite Capital and New Leaf Ventures, who are all equal partners. Their funding is providing the opportunity to perform the Phase I and Phase II clinical trials, as well as progress preclinical drug discovery programmes to candidate quality molecules.

What are the key strengths of your new company?
DW: Our people, our know-how and our portfolio. We have more than sixty years of medicinal chemistry experience between us, including the identification of several clinical candidates for pain. Our internal drug discovery platform is based around our unique expertise in ion channel electrophysiology and our team has unrivalled experience in ion channel and pain drug development. We have high quality clinical assets and exciting drug discovery programmes focussed on the next generation of pain candidate compounds.

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