Humacyte rustles up $12 million and a new chief executive

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Duke University spin-off Humacyte Inc. landed a $12 million investment and pharmaceutical industry veteran Carrie Cox for CEO.

The Durham, N.C.-based regenerative medicine company recently raised $12 million from a single investor through a debt offering, according to an amended filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission. Another amended filing shows the company raised $7 million in debt about a year ago.

Humacyte founder and former CEO Dr. Laura Niklason would say only that “we have taken in funds from our existing investors,” when asked by the Triangle Business Journal about the recent investments and their purposes.

Humacyte uses a proprietary technology to engineer human tissues that can be shaped into tubes, sheets and other forms to treat vascular diseases and repair the body. Niklason, a former Duke researcher, started the company in late 2004 to use human cells to make artificial blood vessels that could be transplanted into patients suffering from kidney failure and other ailments, the Triangle Business Journal said.

Cox, who had been executive vice president and president of Global Pharmaceuticals at Schering-Plough Corp., will assumer her new role on Sept. 20, according to Humacyte. She is expected to lead the young Research Triangle Park company from its development to its commercialization phase.

“We are clearly delighted to have an executive with the experience, leadership and sound business judgment of Carrie Cox to lead Humacyte at this important juncture in our company’s history,” Niklason said in prepared remarks. “Carrie is ideally qualified to oversee our ongoing product development efforts and lead us into commercialization of these much-needed treatment options for patients.”

Cox left Schering-Plough with a golden parachute estimated at between $36 million and $44 million when her company was acquired by Merck & Co. in November 2009, according to a pharmaceutical industry blog. That doesn’t include about $11 million in net gains from exercising Schering-Plough stock options in April and May of 2007 — before the release of disappointing study results on the company’s Vytorin cholesterol-lowering drug.

Those stock option sales are part of an ongoing class-action shareholder lawsuit that alleges securities misdeeds by Schering-Plough executives. Some posts at a CafePharma message board on the topic were submitted as evidence in the case. In June, a federal district court judge upheld an August 2009 decision to deny defendants’ request to dismiss the case.

In December, Cox signed on as a director of drug distributor Cardinal Health, Ohio’s largest corporation. Fortune Magazine has named Cox to its list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business six times, according to Cardinal and Humacyte.

“I am proud to join Humacyte and become part of creating the future of regenerative medicine,” Cox said in the release. “The breakthrough science being conducted at Humacyte may one day bring major benefits to patients, while also improving health outcomes and reducing costs.”

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