Odyssey Pharmaceuticals raised $15 million in a Series B financing, money that will be used for its drug discovery process that combines genomics, chemistry and biology.
"It's a proprietary process that we've been working on for some time, and it allows us to look at targets and drugs in the context of the living cell," President and CEO Marnie MacDonald said. "We believe it's a substantially faster and better approach to drug discovery."
Specifically, she said, the money will be used for the instrumentation and systems it needs to incorporate high-throughput screening. She said that understanding the complicated networks of proteins elucidated within the living cell is the "key to developing new agents that act in new ways" - and doing that much faster than traditional methods allow.
MacDonald was one of the founders of Odyssey, of San Ramon, Calif., in 2000. To date, Odyssey has raised $18 million, and she expects the latest funding to carry the company through the next two years. Odyssey plans to focus on its internal discovery efforts and leverage results to form partnerships with other drug companies, she said.
"We're focusing initially on cancer, but we believe the process will generate lead molecules for a variety of important human diseases," MacDonald said.
Those other disease areas of interest include inflammation, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and neurological disorders.
"We'll have lead compounds in two years or less," she said.
Odyssey already has collaborations, including one formed with Incyte Genomics Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., in May 2001 to focus on Type II diabetes. The goal is to identify compounds that are active against Type II diabetes, and the first step in that process is to map the pathways involved in the disease.
The company also entered a collaboration with Genentech Inc., of South San Francisco, in February, which involves studies to look at a new class of target proteins for small-molecule discovery. MacDonald said she was prohibited from providing additional details about the agreement.
A third agreement is with NASA involving the development of nanotechnology biosensors using Odyssey's technology.
"It involves human diagnostics with space applications," MacDonald said.
MacDonald said she was pleased with the support the company received in this round of financing.
"The quality of investors is important," she said. "It's an international group, and we like that a lot because it gives us all kinds of connection to the European markets, as well as the U.S. market."
She also stressed that the investors have pharmaceutical backgrounds in addition to investment and finance.
"That brings a lot of value to Odyssey in addition to just the cash," she said.
HBM Partners, of Zurich, Switzerland, led the round, which also included Series A investor Burrill & Co., of San Francisco. New investors were HealthCap, of Stockholm, Sweden; Cogene Biotech, of Houston; and Incyte Genomics.