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Bain and Pfizer form neuroscience-focused Cerevel

The investment firm is kicking in $350 million in funding, while Pfizer will supply a drug pipeline

by Lisa M. Jarvis
October 25, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 43


A photo of a sign at Pfizer's headquarters.
Credit: Shutterstock
Pfizer will retain a 25% stake in Cerevel.

Less than a year after announcing its exit from neuroscience research, Pfizer has unveiled a plan for its pipeline of drug candidates for diseases including Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia. Bain Capital and Pfizer have created Cerevel Therapeutics, a biotech firm that will develop several compounds from Pfizer’s neuroscience unit with the support of $350 million in funding from Bain. Pfizer retains a 25% stake in the company.

Cerevel, to be based in the Boston area, will start out with eight molecules, several on their way toward commercialization. They include a D1 partial agonist expected to enter Phase III human studies next year for Parkinson’s disease and a selective GABA 2/3 agonist primed for Phase II studies in epilepsy.

Over the past decade, many big pharma companies have pared back or altogether exited neuroscience research. Pfizer had been a holdout, but in January the firm said it would no longer pursue early-stage neuroscience R&D, a decision that cost 300 jobs and put in question the future of a sizable pipeline of drug candidates.

Bernard Munos, senior fellow at FasterCures, a think tank at the Milken Institute, sees the creation of Cerevel as a positive outcome for Pfizer’s portfolio. In the past, the compounds would have collected dust rather than be licensed, out of concern that a competitor might benefit from a hidden gem. “It’s good to see that industry has outgrown that fear and is trying to allow the value embedded in those assets to be expressed,” Munos says.

He also likes the idea of a fresh set of eyes for assets that have lived inside Pfizer’s research labs for so long. “Drug developers have a tendency sometimes to fall in love with a compound and lose their objectivity,” Munos says. “Financial people have a sharp pencil and will assess them.”

Bain and Pfizer previously collaborated on SpringWorks Therapeutics, which launched last year with $103 million in funding from a swath of investors, including Bain, and four drug candidates from Pfizer. Bain says it is prepared to put more money into Cerevel.


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