Seattle’s biotech industry has been on an up-and-down roller coaster ride over the past 12 months, with layoffs and R&D center closures as well as huge financing rounds.
Now, the region is getting another dose of good news, with Seattle-based biotech VentiRx Pharmaceuticals disclosing in a SEC filing that it has raised $50 million in funding.
The company, which is working on cancer treatments that activate immune cells to fight infectious agents, is led by former Dendreon chief medical officer Robert Hershberg.
In a press release earlier this month, the company noted the new funding, but it did not disclose the amount. Backers of the company include Frazier Healthcare Ventures, Arch Venture Partners, Domain Associates, MedImmune Ventures and publicly-traded Celgene Corp. The company plans to use the funds for continued development of its lead motolimod product VTX-2337, with research ongoing into ovarian, head and neck cancers.
Hershberg also is working directly with Celgene, establishing the company’s newly-formed Immuno-Oncology Center of Excellence in Seattle. As part of that, Hershberg is reducing the amount of time he’s spending at VentiRx, with biotech veteran Kathleen Fanning (formerly Cell Therapeutics and CellPro) recently being promoted to COO.
At the time of the announcement, VentiRx also announced collaboration agreements with Ludwig Cancer Research and the Cancer Research Institute.
“Ludwig’s mission is to conduct basic, applied and clinical research to support the swift development of game-changing cancer therapies,” said Jonathan Skipper, Ludwig’s executive director of technology development. “Motolimod holds considerable promise as a cancer drug, particularly as a component of combination immunotherapies.”
The funding at VentiRx follows other high-profile venture investments in Seattle area biotech companies, including the cancer research startup Juno which has raised a whopping $310 million in the past year. In addition, Adaptive Biotechnologies, a 5-year-old Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research spinout which is working on treatments for cancer and autoimmune diseases, scored $110 million in April.
We’ve reached out to VentiRx, and they declined to comment on today’s SEC filing. VentiRx raised a $25 million series A extension in 2010. It was founded in 2006, and raised initial funding of $28.9 million a year later.