HemaQuest Pharmaceuticals, a Newton, Mass.-based developer of small-molecule therapeutics to treat serious blood disorders, has raised $20 million in Series A funding. Backers include De Novo Ventures, Forward Ventures and Lilly Ventures.
HemaQuest Pharmaceuticals, a new company developing proprietary small molecule therapeutics to treat serious blood disorders, today announced that it received $20 million in Series A financing.
HemaQuest will use the funds primarily to support the clinical development of its lead drug candidate, an orally administered agent for treating sickle cell anemia and beta thalassemia.
Investors in the funding round include De Novo Ventures, a Palo Alto, Calif. healthcare investment partnership; Forward Ventures, a life sciences venture capital firm based in San Diego; and Lilly Ventures of Indianapolis, the venture capital arm of Eli Lilly and Company.
Ronald Berenson, MD, HemaQuest’s president and CEO, said, “The HemaQuest technology platform is capable of producing the first safe, disease-modifying drugs for treating sickle cell anemia and beta thalassemia. These hemoglobin disorders afflict several million patients in the U.S., Europe, and worldwide. With few treatment options today, the therapeutic agents we are developing have the potential to make a real difference in many patients’ lives.”
HemaQuest intends to submit an IND for its lead molecule before the end of 2007. In addition, the company said it plans to develop additional programs in its pipeline, including novel treatments for anemia, neutropenia, and other hematological disorders.
“The company brings together world-class scientists, potential breakthrough drugs, and a proven development team, putting it in an ideal position to make major advances in treating patients with serious blood diseases,” said Lilly Ventures’ Bryan Dunnivant, who will serve as chairman of HemaQuest’s board.
HemaQuest’s Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President, Clinical Affairs, Susan Perrine, MD, said, “As a practicing physician, the lack of effective therapies to alleviate the tremendous suffering of patients with hemoglobin disorders is discouraging. I am excited to have the opportunity to develop targeted therapeutics based on patented discoveries made by our co-founder, Douglas Faller, MD, PhD, and my group at Boston University.”
Co-founder George Stamatayannoupolous, MD, former president of the American Society of Hematology and one of the world’s experts on hemoglobin disorder, added, “The therapies we are developing address the major hemoglobin abnormalities related to sickle cell anemia and thalassemia, and have the potential to be a significant advance in treating these diseases.”
Sickle cell anemia and beta thalassemia are hemoglobin disorders, known as hemoglobinopathies. Patients with sickle cell disease suffer from acute painful crises, strokes, lung disease, heart damage, infections and anemia. In beta thalassemia, severe anemia requires frequent blood transfusions, contributing to iron overload, which damages the heart, liver and other major organs. With few therapeutic options, death at an early age is common to both of these hemoglobinopathies.