aTyr Pharma, a San Diego-based drug company focused on developing a novel class of naturally-occurring protein biologics for therapeutic applications, has raised $12 million in third-round funding. Return backers include Alta Partners, Cardinal Partners and Polaris Ventures. The company has now raised around $24 million.
aTyr Pharma announced today that it has raised an additional $12 million to fund its discovery operations and development of its lead candidate. The company is discovering and developing biotherapeutics to treat a wide variety of diseases, including inflammation, autoimmune, hematopoietic and metabolic disorders. Founded in 2006 by Paul Schimmel, a Professor at The Scripps Research Institute and John Clarke of Cardinal Partners, aTyr Pharma’s investors provided $12 million in 2007 to build aTyr Pharma’s discovery engine and intellectual property. This new investment will be used to expand aTyr Pharma’s discovery and preclinical platforms as well as to continue development of the lead drug candidate.
aTyr Pharma’s product class is based on a novel group of naturally occurring resected proteins (resectins) from aminoacyl tRNA synthetases. While the large family of aminoacyl tRNA synthetases is universal and essential to protein synthesis in all organisms, resectins of human tRNA synthetases have additional potent cell signaling activities that are vital to normal functioning of humans. When Professor Paul Schimmel, an expert on tRNA synthetases and a successful biotechnology entrepreneur, began discovering the novel functions in this ancient class of proteins he realized that the tRNA synthetase resectins represented a rich source of proteins that had therapeutic potential. According to Jeff Watkins, CEO of aTyr Pharma, “This new financial support validates both the science and strategy of aTyr Pharma. Our strong investor group of Alta Partners, Cardinal Partners, Polaris Ventures and Paul Schimmel has valuable experience in founding and leading many successful biotechnology companies, including Alkermes, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Cubist Pharmaceuticals, Momenta Pharmaceuticals and Sirtris Pharmaceuticals. We are pleased to have support from these leading venture capital groups in the biotechnology industry.”
Based in San Diego, aTyr Pharma has a majority owned subsidiary in China, Pangu BioPharma. Discovery efforts at Pangu BioPharma are based at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, with matching funding provided by the Hong Kong Government’s Innovation and Technology Fund. Encouragement of biotechnology development by both the Chinese and Hong Kong governments allows aTyr Pharma to leverage investor dollars in the global economy, while at the same time offering the experienced leadership of a proven team to building biotechnology in Asia. Professor Schimmel points out, “The decision to have an Asian presence for aTyr Pharma was driven by our recognition of the progress China has made in meeting international standards while capitalizing on government support for building biotechnology in China. Pangu BioPharma has already identified multiple resectins for our discovery engine, increasing the number of drug candidates with the potential to treat a wide variety of diseases. While we expand our discovery and preclinical platforms in both San Diego and China, it is important for us to have funding for development of our lead candidate to confirm the therapeutic potential for our product class. This new round of financing from our investors is a gratifying endorsement of aTyr Pharma’s discovery and development efforts.”
About Alta Partners
Alta Partners is a San Francisco-based venture capital firm focused on life sciences investing. Founded in 1996, the firm has raised $2 billion in committed capital through eight venture fund programs. Alta invests in life sciences companies across the development continuum, from company formation to later-stage opportunities, and has funded more than 130 companies in the sector to date.
About Cardinal Partners
With over $300 million under management, Cardinal Partners is a leading early-stage venture capital firm that seeks investment opportunities across the healthcare sector including life sciences, medical devices, and healthcare information technology. Cardinal’s management team leverages their decades of experience to nurture today’s enterprises into tomorrow’s industry leaders. Together, the Cardinal Partners team has invested in over a hundred growth companies. Cardinal Partners is based in Princeton, New Jersey and also has offices in Laguna Beach, California and Wayne, Pennsylvania.
About Polaris Ventures
Established in 1996, with offices in Waltham and Seattle, Polaris has over $3 billion under management. Polaris Venture Partners have helped build numerous market leading companies, including Accordant Health Services, Advanced Inhalation Research, Akamai Technologies, Allaire, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, American Superconductor, Aspect Medical Systems, Avici Systems, Centra Software, Classifieds2000, deCODE genetics, Exchange.com, Matrics, Microbia, Momenta Pharmaceuticals, Paradigm Genetics, Powersoft, PSCI, SolidWorks and TransForm Pharmaceuticals.