Drug Research
Drug Discovery & Development

VenatoRx Pharmaceuticals raises $42m in new funding round

Published 26 July 2017

VenatoRx Pharmaceuticals has raised $42m in a Series B funding round led by Versant Ventures and joined by Abingworth and Foresite Capital.

Proceeds will be used to advance the company’s portfolio, including lead product candidate VNRX-5133 for multi-drug resistant (MDR) gram-negative infections.

In connection with the financing, Versant Partner Carlo Rizzuto, Ph.D., and Abingworth Partner Shelley Chu, M.D., Ph.D., joined VenatoRx’s board. Brett Zbar, M.D., a managing director at Foresite Capital, joined as an observer.

Over the last seven years, VenatoRx, a clinical-stage company led by an experienced management team with a successful track record in the antibiotic field, has steadily advanced multiple compounds into development supported by an undisclosed Series A financing, and funding from the U.S. Government (NIH) and the Wellcome Trust (London).

“This new financing will enable us to accelerate and expand our portfolio of novel investigative therapies to address the growing global threat of MDR infections,” said VenatoRx Co-Founder, President and CEO Christopher Burns, Ph.D. “We’re very excited to have such a strong group of new investors join our team.”

VenatoRx’s Co-Founders also include Luigi Xerri, Ph.D., Chief Development Officer, and Daniel Pevear, Ph.D., SVP of Biology and Grants Development. Each Co-Founder has more than two decades of experience in drug development and an entrepreneurial track record that includes a successful exit at Protez Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Novartis AG in 2008 for up to $400 million).

“The evolution and spread of MDR bacteria are creating an urgent unmet medical need for novel compounds like those in VenatoRx’s portfolio,” said Dr. Rizzuto.

“Versant is pleased to be partnering with Abingworth and Foresite to support such an experienced and accomplished team in addressing this significant challenge.”

VenatoRx’s most advanced asset is intravenous VNRX-5133, a novel β-lactamase inhibitor (BLI). The compound is in Phase I trials with a marketed β-lactam antibiotic.

The β-lactam antibiotics represent one of the most successful and widely used classes of antibacterial drugs. However, bacteria have increasingly developed an arsenal of β-lactamase “resistance” enzymes that provide protection by degrading β-lactam antibiotics and rendering them inactive.

VNRX-5133 is the industry’s most advanced compound that directly inhibits all four major classes of β-lactamases, including the newly emerging metallo-β-lactamases (MBLs).

Consequently, VNRX-5133 allows coverage against an unprecedented scope of gram-negative bacteria, including difficult-to-treat Pseudomonas aeruginosa strains. This breadth of activity positions VNRX-5133 as the most highly differentiated BLI, since competing products typically have more limited spectra.

VenatoRx also is developing VNRX-7145, a novel orally bioavailable BLI in late preclinical development, as well as preclinical compounds that target the penicillin binding proteins of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria and have the potential to completely circumvent resistance caused by β-lactamase enzymes.

Source: Company Press Release