Serenex Inc. completed a $15 million Series B round of financing, funds the firm plans to use to accelerate development of its technologies.
Characterizing the current economic climate as a bit of a hurdle in the process, Chairman and CEO Robert Dishman said Serenex nonetheless sold its value in part on references from pharmaceutical company clients.
"For the right kind of deals, there's still plenty of money out there, but you have to convince them you're going to spend it well - there doesn't seem to be any 'dumb' money anymore," he told BioWorld Today. "We were able to convince the investors that to take half now and wait to see how things go and then take the other half, was not the right way to approach this type of opportunity."
Since its founding just over a year ago, Durham, N.C.-based Serenex has raised about $17 million in venture funding.
Serenex said its technologies allow target discovery, lead identification and toxicity profiling to be performed in parallel. Its Functional Proteome Fractionation and Proteome Mining technologies are designed to create high-throughput, simultaneous identification of biologically active compounds and their physiological targets in large numbers. The Functional Proteome Fractionation technology uses proteome capture ligands that capture functionally related sub-proteomes of known therapeutic significance for applications such as high-throughput differential display studies.
"The technology platform we have, in terms of IP and the technique itself, is very powerful," Dishman said. "The key is to get throughput for it, at high ends. We need to automate and integrate several different operations, and tied with that are the bioinformatics to store the data and mine it constantly.
"In terms of getting the whole platform completely integrated and automated, we're probably three-quarters of the way there, three months to go."
He said the company's systems would simultaneously allow for 3,000 drugs or compounds to be run against a captured sub-proteome that contains thousands of potential physiological targets, most of which are not currently isolated or captured.
From a business plan standpoint, privately held Serenex plans to split its technology between pharmaceutical partners and internally funded development programs. Revenue streams resulting from such collaborations would be used for internal development, while outside funding such as that in the financing round will be used strictly for its intended purpose.
"We'll be opportunistic in picking some that look like low-hanging fruit," Dishman said, "something where a relatively small group of 25 medicinal chemists we plan to hire can take the information we generate and determine which combination of targets and molecules have the most chance of succeeding."
He added that the company would internally develop its compounds until the investigational new drug application stage, or into early clinical trials. At the same time, Serenex partners with pharmaceutical firms for similar applications of its technology.
"We believe our technology can very quickly, economically and significantly be able to predict side effects and other attributes of a molecule that could make it unsuitable to be a drug long before they've put huge amounts of money into it," Dishman said. "And the same would go for ourselves."
Additionally, Dishman said it is useful in weaning out side effect-causing qualities of drugs that are otherwise efficacious. In one case, he said Serenex identified an off-target side effect for an undisclosed compound and has begun to create derivatives that do not interact with the protein that causes the unwanted toxicity.
While Dishman declined to specify current large pharmaceutical and biotech partners, he said a pair of ongoing collaborations proved instrumental in gaining investor confidence.
The financing was led by Intersouth Partners, also of Durham, and included new investors Lilly BioVentures, a venture capital unit of Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly & Co., and Seaflower Ventures, of Waltham, Mass. Also included was founding investor Mediphase Venture Partners, with whom Dishman is a venture partner. The Newton, Mass.-based company first funded Serenex last June.