On June 16th, CURE Bioscience ClubhouseCT presented the start-up story of Cornovus Pharmaceuticals at UConn Cell and Genome Sciences Building. Faced with the rising prevalence of heart failure related to the aging population, Cornovus is committed to discovering and developing novel treatments to fight the battle against heart failure. James Heym, Senior Director of Cornovus, together with Julie Olson, CEO of Cornovus, spoke about the company’s scientific foundation and its business model at the event.

Heart failure represents an end-stage phenotype of a number of different cardiovascular diseases. Despite its poor prognosis and significant healthcare cost due to hospitalization, there has been little progress in pharmaceutical treatment for heart failure since the 1990s. Cornovus founder Dr. Bruce Liang at the UConn Health Center, discovered the small molecule MRS2339 to be a stable purinergic P2X class agonist that has shown remarkable cardio-protective effects in a variety of animal models of heart failure. With solid scientific underpinnings, Cornovus took the next key step: fundraising. Funding from the UConn Prototype Grant allowed the preclinical efficacy studies of MRS2339 to be successfully completed.

Pre-seed funding from Connecticut Innovations supported a range of safety tests to de-risk the compound. A forward-thinking angel investor kicked off a Series A round for Cornovus to file an Investigational New Drug (IND) application. The current challenge facing the company is to raise funding in order to get to Phase 1 clinical trial. Olson talked about the company’s experience with venture philanthropy groups and traditional venture capitalists. She engaged the audience in search for fundraising suggestions. Some ideas were brought up such as reaching out to international venture capitalists and angel groups.

Other issues were also discussed during the Q&A session, for instance, the IP protection of the compound and the selection of a certain patient subpopulation in clinical trials.

The event ended with a networking reception attended by individuals from diverse backgrounds including researchers, students, attorneys, corporate professionals, investors and entrepreneurs. In a less formal setting of ClubhouseCT, start-up stories are shared, ideas are exchanged and connections are strengthened. We look forward to seeing you at our next event.

By Shannon Rao,
Business Development Assistant, CURE


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“Great event yesterday.  Some good networking for me.”