IU startup Anagin names Eric J. Messner as its first CEO
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
INDIANAPOLIS -- Anagin LLC, a company launched by two Indiana University scientists to develop a novel treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, has appointed Eric J. Messner as its first CEO.
Messner, whose duties at Anagin officially began July 14, brings more than 25 years of pharmaceutical industry experience to the job, including lead roles in the sale of three companies since 2005. He most recently served as general manager of sales and marketing for OPKO Health’s renal division.
A seasoned founder and leader of startup companies, Messner has extensive experience in setting corporate strategy and a track record of attaining product development goals. His operational background includes raising capital and crafting partnership deals that fuel drug development, as well as managing corporate operations and commercializing pharmaceutical products.
“I am very excited about the opportunity to join Anagin and bring a lead product forward as a new treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder,” Messner said. “Dr. (Anantha) Shekhar and Dr. (Yvonne) Lai have deep experience in drug discovery and development, and my experience in fundraising and advancing product development is complementary to their strengths."
In joining Anagin, Messner takes the helm of a rising star within the Indiana University Research and Technology Corp.’s Spin Up program. The initiative allows entrepreneurial scientists to focus on the research that makes their innovations marketable, while Spin Up’s staff manages daily operations and early fundraising for fledgling firms.
Anagin was co-founded by Shekhar and Lai in 2013. So far, the company has raised more than $760,000 in grants, awards and prize money toward the development of PTSD treatments that avoid the debilitating side effects often linked with traditional therapies.
Spin Up director Joe Trebley said Messner fits the ideal of a “last founder” that he seeks for companies like Anagin. Trebley describes a “last founder” as an experienced executive -- one with a track record for raising capital and managing early-stage companies -- who can take a Spin Up company’s early success and expand it to the next level.
“It is difficult for startups to recruit the kind of top managerial experience that Eric offers. Only the best scientific teams manage to do it,” Trebley said. “This is a big win for Anagin. The wealth of executive experience that Eric brings to the Anagin team, combined with Anagin’s world-renowned scientific founders, will be a winning combination.”
Shekhar said he looks forward to working with Messner as he guides Anagin into a new realm of fundraising in which it pursues Phase II federal small business grants, its first round of seed financing and other types of partnerships.
“We are developing therapies in an area with a high degree of unmet medical needs. PTSD affects veterans, domestic abuse victims, emergency responders, child abuse victims -- some of society’s most vulnerable people,” Shekhar said. “Eric will play a key role in moving our work from the laboratory to a point where our drug, if it performs as we anticipate, can provide hope to these patients who need it so desperately.”
A 1989 graduate of Miami University in Ohio, Messner spent much of his early career in sales and marketing roles with Parke-Davis, Knoll and Abbott Laboratories. In 1999, he earned an MBA from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
In 2003, Messner joined Bone Care International, a University of Wisconsin-Madison spin-off company, as its marketing director. Two years later, he helped engineer its merger with Genzyme Corp. in a deal valued at about $600 million. Later in 2005, he co-founded Proventiv Therapeutics LLC as co-inventor of the lead product; within nine months, he helped guide its acquisition by privately held Canadian firm Cytochroma Inc.
As Cytochroma’s chief operating officer, Messner focused on raising capital, licensing deals and product development. He and Cytochroma’s CEO directed its 2013 sale to Miami-based OPKO Health through undisclosed terms. As general manager of sales and marketing for OPKO Renal, he led all commercial activity for the division.
Anagin develops drugs that block the target mechanism of PTSD without triggering others that cause crippling side effects such as agitation, irritability, sexual dysfunction, drowsiness, memory lapses, motor skill problems and addiction. In 2014, it received a $692,706 Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health, $50,000 in matching funds from the state of Indiana and $25,000 as winner of the third annual BioCrossroads New Venture Competition held in conjunction with the 2014 Indiana Life Sciences Summit. Its co-founders are Anantha Shekhar, a professor of psychiatry, pharmacology and neurobiology at the IU School of Medicine in Indianapolis and director of the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, and Yvonne Lai, a senior scientist with the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU Bloomington.
IURTC is a not-for-profit agency that helps IU faculty and researchers realize the commercial potential of their discoveries. Since 1997, IURTC’s university clients have accounted for more than 2,800 inventions, nearly 1,900 patent applications and more than 80 startup companies. IURTC is part of the Innovate Indiana initiative, which engages strategic partners to leverage and advance IU’s intellectual resources and expertise, enhance Indiana’s economic growth and contribute to the overall quality of life for Hoosiers.
About Innovate Indiana
Indiana University is designated as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. This recognizes IU’s commitment across all its campuses to being a leading institution in fostering regional economic development. The university’s Innovate Indiana initiative engages strategic partners to leverage and advance the university’s intellectual resources and expertise, enhance Indiana’s economic growth and contribute to the overall quality of life for Hoosiers.
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