Capital Flows to Massachusetts Startups

July 6, 2011
Marie Daghlian

Boston area life sciences firms raised almost $90 million in early stage rounds.

This article published with permission from The Burrill Report.

Despite all the talk about the difficulty of raising capital in risk-averse times, four life sciences firms raised close to $90 million in early stage deals during the last week of June, while the industry gathered in an upbeat and optimistic mood in Washington D.C. for the annual BIO International Convention.

Nimbus Discovery closed a $24 million Series A venture financing that was co-led by Atlas Venture, SR One and Lilly Ventures. In stealth mode until recently, the company had previously received seed stage capital from Bill Gates and Schrödinger, a developer of state-of-the-art chemical simulation software for use in pharmaceutical and biotechnology research. Gates participated in the Series A round. The Cambridge-based startup uses computational technology to discover novel medicines against interesting but previously inaccessible disease targets.

Proceeds from the financing will be used to accelerate existing programs targeting IRAK4 and ACC, in inflammation, cancer and metabolic disease, and to expand the Nimbus pipeline to include a series of new targets addressing important medical conditions. IRAK4, which plays a pivotal role in inflammatory disease, is a genetically validated target since humans with inactivating IRAK4 mutations are resistant to autoimmune disease.

Nimbus has established a partnership with Schrödinger to gain privileged access to its technology and exclusive rights to key targets and has already delivered selective, potent and differentiated compounds within the first year for two disease targets that are pivotal in the progression of an aggressive form of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and obesity.

The company, founded in 2009 by Atlas Venture and Schrödinger, is a virtually integrated, globally distributed R&D organization that aims to leverage an experienced internal drug discovery team across an external network of R&D partners.

Third Rock Ventures launched Lotus Tissue Repair, leading the Cambridge-based biotech’s $26 million Series A venture round. The company will use the capital to develop technology it has licensed from the University of Southern California into a protein replacement therapy to treat a rare skin disorder that causes destructive skin blisters and leads to early death. Beyond the orphan indication, the company says that its therapy can be used for wound repair in a variety of skin conditions, including diabetic foot ulcers.

Boston-based Acetylon Pharmaceuticals completed a $27 million Series B preferred equity investment round to fund a phase 1/2 clinical trial of its lead drug candidate ACY-1215, the first Class II-selective therapeutic HDAC6 inhibitor to treat patients with relapsed and relapsed-refractory multiple myeloma. Most of the new financing came from private individuals, including many who participated in the company’s Series A financing in 2009. The new funding will add to $4.9 million in funding from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society announced in May to support clinical development of ACY-1215.

Burlington, Mass.-based InfraReDx, a medical device company providing cardiovascular diagnostic imaging technologies, raised $24.1 million from its existing investors. The company will use the money to expand manufacturing operations and commercial infrastructure to support growing demand for its LipiScan IVUS Coronary Imaging System, the only FDA-cleared device used to detect lipid core coronary plaques that doctors are using before inserting a stent.

Sorbent is developing therapies for cardiovascular and renal disorders. Its lead product, CLP 1001, is a polymer that has been shown to remove potassium, sodium, and fluid with good tolerability in more than 100 patients and healthy volunteers, an important need for the treatment of patients with heart failure or renal failure.

Copyright 2011 Burrill & Company. For more life sciences news and information, visit www.burrillreport.com.

Finally, Sorbent Therapeutics, a biotech from Sunnyvale, Calif., expanded its series B financing from September 2010 by $36 million, bringing total proceeds of its second financing round to $53 million. New investor Novartis Venture Funds led the recent financing, joining existing investors Sofinnova Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners, CMEA Capital and AgeChem.