Dr. John Mantsch, co-founder, Promentis Pharmaceuticals, associate professor, biomedical sciences, Marquette University. (Photo:  Marquette University)
Dr. John Mantsch, co-founder, Promentis Pharmaceuticals, associate professor, biomedical sciences, Marquette University. (Photo: Marquette University)

Promentis Pharmaceuticals announced on Thursday that it had raised $2.9 million in Series-B funding for their compounds targeting disorders of the central nervous system.  The round was led by Black Horse Investments of Germany, run by former Schwarz Pharma Group chairman Patrick Schwarz-Schuette.

Two former Promentis executives, Daniel Lawton and Klaus Veitinger, had previously grown Schwarz’ U.S. division sales from $50 million to $500 million over a ten-year period.  Chad E. Beyer, the former head of neurochemistry at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals was named president and CEO of Promentis in July of last year.

The funds will be used to bring two of the company’s compounds to human clinical trials over the next two years.

Promentis Pharmaceuticals was founded in 2008 by David Baker and John Mantsch, both professors of biomedical science at Marquette University in Milwaukee.  The original technology was licensed from Marquette as well as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The company is developing molecules to treat disorders of the central nervous system, particularly schizophrenia, autism and Parkinson’s disease.  Their compounds target the glutamate system in the brain, which is important for information processing in the neuronal networks of the neocortex and hippocampus.

Dr. David Baker, co-founder, Promentis Pharmaceuticals, associate professor, biomedical sciences, Marquette University. (Photo:  Marquette University)
Dr. David Baker, co-founder, Promentis Pharmaceuticals, associate professor, biomedical sciences, Marquette University. (Photo: Marquette University)

Research has shown that glutamate dysfunction contributes to schizophrenia.  For example, sufferers of the disease exhibit “blunted signaling in the prefrontal cortex of the brain during the performance of cognitive tasks.”  (Read more on the Promentis website here.)

Promentis’ compounds help to balance glutamate levels in the brain.

In 2012 the company received a $1.8 million award from the National Institutes of Health to develop novel schizophrenia treatments.  Research setbacks over the last two decades have slowed down the development of new drugs to treat the disease, and Promentis’ approach could be an important breakthrough if the clinical trials are successful.

Along with the NIH award in 2012, the company also received $299,000 that year from the Michael J. Fox foundation for their research into new treatments for Parkinson’s disease.  The company raised its first investment round of $1.94 million in 2010 from members of the Golden Angels network.