06 Sep Biotech talent drew venture-funded firm to Madison
Madison, Wis. – Madison’s ability to build a community of life science tool developers was a key reason why an Illinois biotechnology company chose to relocate here as part of a $5.85 million venture financing deal led by Baird Venture Partners.
The company, Caden Biosciences, will move from Evanston, Ill. into the New Venture Center on the Fitchburg Technology Campus later this month. Caden, which was spun out of Northwestern University, has developed a yet-to-be-named research tool that could make it possible for researchers to screen for additional drug targets.
Annette Gilchrist, chief science officer and one of the founding scientists of Caden Biosciences, said Madison was selected because it has developed a community of companies that are developing research tools.
“We were very interested in Madison because of the mass of life science tool companies already there,” she said, ticking off Promega, BellBrook Labs, and others. “It allows us to identify people that are experienced in that space that can work for us.”
One of its newest employees is Bill Checovich, former director of Madison operations for the California-based Invitrogen Corp., who will serve as president and COO of Caden Biosciences.
Formerly known as Cue Biotech, Caden Biosciences has four employees and is advertising for bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D-level scientists to fill openings at its future home.
Chris Armstrong, project manager for the Fitchburg Technology Campus, said Caden Biosciences has leased 2,700 square feet of space in a new building already occupied by GenTel Biosciences and Imago Scientific Instruments.
The company’s platform technology provides a method of screening that allows researchers to more precisely read the signaling of cell pathways. Cellular signals are sent to G-protein coupled receptors, or GPRCs, which serve as the antenna on each cell and regulate a range of internal cellular functions. Since GPCRs are involved in a number of cell functions, they are implicated in a variety of diseases.
Caden’s technology can both understand and modulate a receptor’s reaction to a specific G-protein, enabling scientists to measure which G-protein pathways are blocked and also to stimulate them. By exploring each pathway, the technology will enable researchers to identify drugs that can affect each pathway.
This is not the case today. At the moment, there are anywhere from 800 to 1,000 GPCRs on the human genome. Of those, roughly 400 are thought to be pharmaceutically relevant, but only 40 have been successfully targeted by commercial drugs – representing $50 billion in annual sales – and many of those drugs have side effects.
Caden Biosciences not only has an opportunity to pinpoint the remaining intractable targets, it might be able to address the side effects in the 40 drugs that have been developed thus far.
This is the primary reason Baird Venture Partners, Venture Investors, and IllinoisVentures, LLC, decided to join in the financing. They believe the Caden platform will enjoy a sustainable market advantage.
Pete Shagory, a partner at Baird, said Caden has the potential to create a large portfolio of GPCR-specific products. “This is a very rich target,” he noted. “We believe the existing screening tools are too limited, and that Caden has a different approach to screening GPCRs that will allow drug companies to develop novel compounds.”
Caden Biosciences is the second biotechnology company to be lured to Madison from the Chicago area. Last year, Clonex Development moved here with the help of a state loan.
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