Fresh Off Amira Success, Versant’s Bolzon and San Diego’s Prasit Begin Anew with Inception

11/29/11Follow @bvbigelow

Last year’s blockbuster film “Inception,” was about a dream within a dream within a dream, which made it a little hard to follow.

Likewise with “Inception,” the San Diego life sciences startup that was founded earlier this year by Versant Ventures’ Brad Bolzon and Peppi Prasit, the former co-founder and chief scientific officer at San Diego’s Amira Biosciences. With Inception, the founders apparently have set out to duplicate their success at Amira, which was acquired in July by Bristol-Myers Squibb in a deal valued at $475 million.

But it can get a little hard to follow.

As we reported this summer, “Inception 1″ disclosed in a regulatory filing that it had raised $5 million in an initial round of funding that targeted $10 million. At that time, Prasit (who is also a San Diego Xconomist) responded to my request for more details with a short e-mail: “It’s an incubator for ideas right now. I would like to keep it stealth for a little while.”

Now, according to another regulatory filing completed before Thanksgiving, “Inception 2,” a different entity created by Bolzon and Prasit, says it also has raised $5 million of a planned $10 million round.

Versant’s Bolzon told VentureWire reporter Brian Gormley a few months ago that the startup officially known as Inception Sciences is intended to serve as a holding company for spinning out individual drug development programs as separate corporate entities. The idea represents a new life sciences business model that makes it easier for Big Pharma companies to acquire a set of potential drug compounds without the “non-strategic assets” that come with a biotech acquisition.

Hmmmm. Since these would not be conventional M&A deals, would this business model also dispense with the need to involve investment bankers in an acquisition?

Another advantage to Inception Sciences’ model is that it allows investors to provide funding “a la carte” into specific drug development programs, according to Alex Lash of The In Vivo Blog. Lash also says it provides a way to provide investors a return on their capital without selling the underlying science, which would remain with the holding company.

VentureWire says Versant provided seed funding for Inception 1 to discover drugs for treating neurodegenerative diseases. Inception 2 is focusing on metabolically targeted drugs designed to cut off a tumor’s fuel supply.

The holding company, which has 25 employees, anticipates forming Inception 3 in mid-2012 or early 2013.

I sent Prasit another query about Inception this morning, with no response yet. But I’m still hoping.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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