- Press releases
Asceneuron SA, a leader in developing novel small molecule therapeutics targeting tauopathies for Alzheimer’s and related neurodegenerative diseases, today announced that Prof. Raymond Hill, former Executive Director, Licensing and External Research, Europe for Merck Sharp and Dohme, has been appointed to the board of directors. In addition, Dr. Franz Hefti, experienced in development of therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease and former Chief Scientific Officer of Avid Radiopharmaceuticals before its acquisition by Eli Lilly in 2010, has been appointed as special advisor to the board.
“We are proud that our work to develop therapeutics targeting tauopathies for treatment of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders, continues to attract such high caliber persons from the industry to our team,” said Dirk Beher, CEO. “We welcome Dr. Hill to our board of directors and look forward to working with him and our new advisor, Dr. Hefti, as we plan for clinical development of our lead product in progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), an orphan tauopathy, next year.”
“I am delighted to join Asceneuron and am excited to work with the board and executive management on the future development of this differentiated approach for treating Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Hill. “The role of tauopathies may be underestimated in Alzheimer’s and related disorders. Drugs targeting tau, like Asceneuron’s O-GlcNAcase inhibitor, have the potential to play an important role in treating neurodegenerative disorders.”
Prof. Raymond Hill, PhD, is a veteran of the pharmaceutical industry and a well-regarded neuroscientist, who currently holds board seats and professorships. He also serves as President Emeritus of the British Pharmacological Society, as a co-opted member of Council, Academy of Medical Sciences and sits on the Advisory Council on Misuse of Drugs. Dr. Hill was Executive Director, Licensing and External Research, Europe for Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD). He additionally had oversight responsibility for Neuroscience research at the MSD / Banyu Research Labs in Tsukuba, Japan. At MSD he chaired discovery project teams responsible for currently marketed products Maxalt and Emend. Dr. Hill is a non-executive director of Avilex and Orexo. He is visiting professor at Imperial College in London and the University of Bristol. Dr. Hill received BPharm and PhD degrees from the University of London and was elected to Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2005.
Dr. Hefti said: “Treating tauopathies is an exciting therapeutic strategy that I believe may prove to be important and complementary to other approaches. I am delighted to participate in forming the clinical development strategy for Asceneuron’s O-GlcNAcase inhibitor.” Dr. Hefti is widely recognized as an expert in drug discovery and development for Alzheimer’s disease and other nervous system diseases. Dr. Hefti held senior management positions at Merck & Co. and Genentech. He carried out seminal research on therapeutic applications of neurotrophic factors while Associate Professor at the University of Miami, later becoming Professor at the University of Southern California. Dr. Hefti is President and Chief Operating Officer at NeuroPhage Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Cambridge, MA), which is developing preclinical stage therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease. Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, where Dr. Hefti was Chief Scientific Officer, developed an imaging diagnostic for Alzheimer’s disease before it was acquired by Eli Lilly in 2010. He also was Executive Vice President of Drug Development at Rinat Neuroscience, a company with antibody programs for Alzheimer’s disease and pain indications that was acquired by Pfizer in 2006. Dr. Hefti has published over 250 papers on neurotrophic factors and topics in neuropharmacology, as well as a textbook “Drug Discovery for Nervous System Diseases”. Dr. Hefti received his PhD from the University of Zurich and performed his postdoctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston and the Max Planck Institute in Munich.
Asceneuron SA (www.asceneuron.com) researches and develops therapeutics targeting tauopathies for treating Alzheimer’s and related neurodegenerative diseases. The lead product, a preclinical O-GlcNAcase inhibitor which targets tau, is scheduled to begin clinical testing in 2015. Neuronal deposits of the microtubule-associated tau protein are a common feature of tauopathies, known to be a major contributor to neurodegenerative diseases. Asceneuron was formed in October 2012 through an MS Ventures-led spinout of the Alzheimer’s disease drug discovery portfolio and research group from Merck Serono, the pharmaceutical division of Merck.