Novo Leads New $30M Round for San Diego’s Elevation Pharmaceuticals

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San Diego’s Elevation Pharmaceuticals says today it’s raised $30 million in Series B funding, which is expected to carry the startup through its mid-stage trials for a new aerosol drug for treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The fresh round was led by Denmark’s Novo Ventures life sciences fund, which keeps an office in San Francisco, and was joined by previous investors Canaan Partners, TPG Biotech, Care Capital, and Mesa Verde Venture Partners.

Just a few months ago, Elevation said it had received $17 million that represented the second tranche in a $30 million Series A round of funding that the company disclosed in early 2010.

Novo Ventures’ Heath Lukatch, a San Francisco-based partner who is joining Elevation’s board, tells me Novo led the current round after begging off the deal when the life sciences startup was raising its Series A funding in 2009. At that time, Elevation had run “a very small trial” of its drug candidate, a long-acting bronchodilator, “that was suggestive of efficacy,” Lukatch says.

Since then, Lukatch says the three-year-old startup has minimized the risks that loomed in his mind a couple of years ago. “They have run a larger trial—that was the biggest point in terms of ‘de-risking’ the deal,” he says. “They were able to hit their costs, and meet their development milestones.”

Lukatch says he also felt reassured by moves the company made recently to beef up its leadership. Elevation announced in September that it had filled two newly created positions with a couple of veteran pharmaceutical executives: Former Zelos Therapeutics President Jaisim Shah was named as a senior vice president and Chief Business Officer, and Pravin Soni, who previously oversaw development of a new inhalable drug delivery system, was named as senior vice president and chief technical officer.

Elevation says its lead drug candidate, designated EP-101, is being developed with an aerosol delivery device developed by PARI Pharma to atomize a liquid drug into a fine mist.

Novo’s Lukatch says Elevation has completed enrollment of a multi-center mid-stage clinical trial to evaluate EP-101 in patients with moderate-to-severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an umbrella term for emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking often causes COPD.

Lukatch says the $30 million Series B round, which also will be divided into tranches, is sufficient to complete that study as well as a second mid-stage trial planned for later this year to determine the optimal dosage and dosing regimen for late-stage studies.

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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