Viamet Takes New Pharma Support With $18M Series B

Dow Jones VentureWire
07.08.09

Viamet Takes New Pharma Support With $18M Series B

Viamet Pharmaceuticals Inc., a developer of metalloenzyme inhibitors, has raised an $18 million Series B round, drawing in new support from corporate pharmaceutical venture investors.

New investors Lilly Ventures and Novartis Option Fund led the round. Novartis Option Fund typically invests in early stage companies with an option to a specific therapeutic program. The option, usually limited in duration, is aimed at helping the company advance its business plan and usually does not include a company's lead program, according to Novartis' Web site. Novartis is working with Viamet to identify a newly created target of interest, which is not in Viamet's current portfolio, Viamet President and Chief Executive Bob Schotzinger said.

We weren't specifically looking for corporate-based VCs, but they were certainly on our target list, Schotzinger said. "Through our current investors we had good introductions to both groups."

With the Series B round, Viamet now has the support of three pharmaceutical venture investors, including existing investor Astellas Venture Management, which also participated in this round. That pharmaceutical syndicate could provide the company with more information and guidance as the company looks to take on its first clinical trials, Schotzinger said. The company also drew from continued support from other existing investors Hatteras Venture Partners, Intersouth Partners and Lurie Investment Fund. The valuation of the Series B round, which closed on June 23, was not disclosed.

Based in Research Triangle Park, N.C., Viamet is working to improve existing drugs through the development of metalloenzyme inhibitors through the application of a proprietary chemistry platform. The technology aims to optimize the metal binding component of existing inhibitors, and improve the efficacy, safety and pharmacokinetics of existing drugs. Viamet is not disclosing the existing compounds it is currently analoging, Schotzinger said.

With the Series B round, Viamet plans to advance its two most advanced programs, targeting therapeutic areas of infectious disease and oncology, into clinical testing.

Potential future venture fund-raising "would depend on our ability to be acquired by the end of the Series B time frame," Schotzinger said. "All options would obviously be on the table."

Viamet, currently with six employees, was founded with a $750,000 seed funding in 2005 from Intersouth Partners, which then served as an incubator for the company. Since that time, Viamet raised $6.25 million in Series A funding from its existing venture syndicate.

If the company can prove out that the molecules that they have developed from scratch have efficacy and safety for humans, my sense is it's something that one of the [potential] corporate partners will be interested in owning, said Intersouth Partners General Partner and Viamet Chairman Garheng Kong, indicating the company is currently entertaining new interest from corporate partners.

For Hatteras, which came in on the Series A round, Viamet has successfully created compounds from scratch that are showing potential, said Partner Doug Reed. Ultimately, Viamet also fits into Hatteras' investment philosophy to invest in technologies with broad applicability.

The thing that I think is most attractive is we like to invest in technologies that have applicabilities to a number of different products, Reed said. "This has the ability to make improved drugs in many different therapeutic classes so that, if the technology works, we'll be able to make many different drugs."