April 22, 2010

Catabasis lands $39M Series A for diabetes programs

Just days after raising its first tranche, Cambridge, MA-based Catabasis Pharmaceuticals announced this morning that it has completed a $39.6 million Series A venture round. The round, large for a Series A, was led by SV Life Sciences, Clarus Ventures, and MedImmune Ventures with Advanced Technology Ventures participating.

Catabasis was launched in 2008 by a pair of veterans from Sirtris Pharmaceuticals after that developer was snapped up by GlaxoSmithKline. And like Sirtris, Catabasis is aiming at a major market target. Jill Milne, Ph.D., Catabasis' CEO, and Mike Jirousek, Ph.D., Catabasis' chief scientific officer, were drawn to the work of Steven Shoelson, M.D., Ph.D., an investigator in the Harvard Medical School and Joslin Diabetes Center who was working on inflammation. Shoelson concluded that salsalate--a prodrug form of salicylate with anti-inflammatory activity--improves glucose homeostasis in people living with Type 2 diabetes. Shoelson is credited as a co-founder of Catabasis.

"Catabasis is using its novel, proprietary SMART-linker technology platform to develop potent and effective medicines to treat inflammation by harnessing the therapeutic potential of salicylate and the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids to simultaneously inhibit pro-inflammatory pathways and activate anti-inflammatory pathways," said Milne. Catabasis revealed that it had raised the first $7.7 million tranche in the round about a week ago.

The Series A money "will take us through two Phase IIa trials in the clinic," Milne tells FierceBiotech, with the lead program for Type 2 diabetes pushed through the proof-of-concept stage. And Catabasis is also at work on a second indication in the inflammation space. Milne says that the company's drug development platform enhances the therapeutic effects of both omega-3 fatty acids as well as salicylate, working on anti-inflammatory pathways that can also provide a new approach to treating arthritis.

Like a lot of biotech start-ups these days, Catabasis is working with a virtual crew. There are seven people on staff now and Milne says that the workforce will rise to about a dozen at the end of this year before expanding to 20 to 25 over the next couple of years.