Children's pain relief company wants former Genmab boss on board

Biotech company Cessatech wants to bring former Genmab communications veteran Rachel Curtis Gravesen onto its board, which already features several prominent industry people. The former chair has officially left the board.
Rachel Curtis Gravesen will be proposed as a board member of Cessatech during its next general assembly | Photo: Cessatech / PR
Rachel Curtis Gravesen will be proposed as a board member of Cessatech during its next general assembly | Photo: Cessatech / PR
by ALBERT RØNNING-ANDERSSON, translated by daniel pedersen

Biotech company Cessatech, which was listed on the Spotlight exchange in Copenhagen shortly after being founded in 2020, wants to equip its board with Rachel Curtis Gravesen, who worked at Genmab for eight years as senior vice president of investor relations and communications until March 2019.

Curtis Gravesen has initially been appointed as board observer, with the plan being to propose her as an official board member at Cessatech's next general assembly on March 17, 2022, reports a company press release.

CEO at Cessatech Jes Trygved, who until 2015 had spent nearly 15 years at pharmaceutical firm Lundbeck in various leadership positions, comments to MedWatch:

"Rachel has many years' experience within leadership, business and communication, and she has a good understanding of what it takes to create success and, not least, how this is best communicated. She has gained a lot of experience at Genmab and Novo Nordisk, and her competencies are very important for Cesstech's future journey," Trygved says.

Market launch in 2024

Cessatech's leading product candidate is a an analgesic nasal spray designed as a pain relief to be used by children during medical procedures. In Europe alone, an estimated 25 million children experience pain during such procedures every year.

Despite there being many analgesic products available, only few have been developed specifically for children. Cessatech has expressed its goal to launch its nasal spray in 2024, and before Cessatech was founded, the spray was demonstrated to be safe and effective in a phase II study including 50 children, which was conducted by Danish hospital Rigshospitalet.

"How, and possibly with whom, we will launch the spray remains unclear," Trygved says.

Before her stint at Genmab, Curtis Gravesen worked at Novo Nordisk, and before then, she was a journalist at CNBC Nordic and the BBC.

According to Trygved, Cessatech, which ended the second quarter of 2021 with a DKK 2.6m (USD 394,989) deficit, will benefit from her leadership, business and communication experience, which spans more than 25 years.

Shortly before Christmas, the company raised DKK 24.3m (USD 3.7m) from investors exercising warrant options acquired from when Cessatech first went listed in 2020. With an exercise rate of 97 percent, the capitial raise totaled almost DKK 40m (USD 6m).

"Within biotech, the collaboration with investors and potential new investors is very important ­ Rachel will bring a lot of input to this process. I'm really pleased to be able to bring her along on the journey, and I'm looking forward to the collaboration," Trygved says.

Oncology Venture founder leaves Cessatech

Until this summer, Cessatech's board was chaired by Ulla Buhl, who in 2012 founded Oncology Venture, which has since changed its name to Allarity Therapeutics and is now heading onto the US stock exchange.

At the end of June, she left the chair position open for Adam Steensberg, the current chief medical officer at Zealand Pharma. Today, she has left the board entirely, although she still has shares in the company.

"The change with Ulla has been a process ­ she left the chair position for Adam Steensberg in summer 2021, and the intention was always for her to move on at some point in time. The timing is now right, and we have been very pleased to have her," Trygved says.

After Buhl's exit, Cessatech's board, excluding Chair Adam Steensberg, also counts current CEO of Norwegian fim Bergenbio, Martin Olin, who is also the former CEO of Symphogen and, for a time, managing partner at capital fund Nordic Eye.

Other members include Flemming Steen Jensen, senior vice president and head of product supply & quality at Ascendis Pharma, and Peter Birk, a partner at Accelerace Management.

Cessatech builds on research from Danish Hospital Rigshospitalet conducted by two of its co-founders, its current chief science officer, Betinna Nygaard Nielsen, and Steen Winther Henneberg, Cessatech's chief medical officer.

The biotech company's pipeline has two other concepts for children after lead candidate CT001. First, CT002, an MRI sedation for children undergoing scanning, and second, a local anaesthetic gel, CT003, to numb the skin before several potential procedures.

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