Avalon Ventures, GlaxoSmithKline Bet $20M On Two Biotech Startups

Published: Sep 23, 2014

Avalon Ventures, GlaxoSmithKline Bet $20M On Two Biotech Startups

September 22, 2014

By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Venture capital firm Avalon Ventures announced today they are launching two new life science companies in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline . The two new companies, each of which will receive $10 million in Series A financing, are Silarus Therapeutics, Inc. and Thyritope Biosciences, Inc.

The collaboration with GSK has the goal of launching and funding up to 10 early-stage life science companies.

Avalon and GSK said they created the partnership in April 2013 and is expected to fund the 10 companies with up to $495 million in financial support, while providing research and development logistics. Both new companies will be headquartered at COI Pharmaceuticals in San Diego, a complete R&D facility.

“This unique model of bringing venture capital together with academia and big pharma is proving to be a powerful vehicle that is working just as we had hoped,” said Lon Cardon, senior vice president of alternative discovery and development at GSK in a statement, “bridging the gap between excellent academic science and the transformational development of medicines that GSK can provide.”

Silarus Therapeutics will focus on developing therapeutics that target erythroferrone for the treatment of iron deficiency and iron overload disorders, such as anemia. The company is built on in-licensed intellectual property discovered by University of California Los Angeles researchers Tomas Ganz and Elizabeta Nemeth. Both are affiliated with the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.

Thyritope Biosciences will work to develop drugs that target thyroid stimulating auto-antibodies related to Graves’ hyperthyroidism and Graves’ orbitopathy. The molecular technology the company is based on was developed by University of California, Santa Barbara researcher Patrick Daughterty and commercialized by Serimmune, Inc.

The Wall Street Journal reported that each company that comes out of the collaboration will only employ a few people and will focus on a single compound. The first company debuted so far is Sitari Pharmaceuticals. Announced in November, 2013, Sitari raised $10 million in Series A financing from Avalon and GSK and is focused on a treatment for celiac disease. It is targeting the Transglutaminase 2 (TG2) pathway.

“Our collaboration with GSK represents a new model for driving early-stage drug discovery,” said Jay Lichter, managing director of Avalon Ventures in a statement. “By combining the nimble start-up mentality of Avalon with the unmatched R&D expertise and resources of a global pharmaceutical giant like GSK, in less than 18 months we have launched three new companies in diverse therapeutic areas and completed our first compound screen for drug candidate identification in a robust collaboration with GSK.”

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