TargeGen Inc., a new company focusing on vascular biology, raised $10 million in a Series A financing money that will be used to take its two product candidates into the clinic.
TargeGen, of San Diego, is the first company to emerge from venture capital firm Forward Ventures’ entrepreneur-in-resident program designed to incubate new companies.
President, CEO and co-founder Peter Ulrich has been working at the Forward Ventures location to develop the company since October.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited in my 27-year career,” said Ulrich, who has senior management experience with health care and biotechnology companies including Baxter Healthcare, NeuroVir Therapeutics, La Jolla Pharmaceutical Co. and MedClone Inc.
The fund-raising environment was positive, with the endeavor being “heavily oversubscribed,” Ulrich said.
TargeGen will focus on developing drugs for cancer, cardiovascular, ocular and inflammatory diseases. Its technology platform, which is based on either inhibiting or promoting angiogenesis, is based, in part, on work completed by David Cheresh, who is also a scientific founder of the company.
“Heart attack, stroke and cancer are the three largest disease-related causes of death, and we potentially address all three of those in a very innovative [way],” Ulrich said.
In addition to Cheresh’s work, TargeGen secured patents rights from Merck KgaA, of Darmstadt, Germany, for vascular biology-related intellectual property as well as compounds.
Ulrich said the company expects to file investigational new drug applications for a drug candidate in cancer and one in acute ischemia within the next two years.
The technology platform is based on two defined pathways of angiogenesis. TargeGen has molecules that interact with specific components of those pathways. In cancer, it suppresses new blood vessel development in tumors. In cardiovascular applications, the molecule is designed to reduce vascular permeability after an acute ischemic event, Ulrich said.
TargeGen said that in preliminary testing, its product candidates have inhibited the growth and development of established tumors. In the cardiovascular area, a product candidate has inhibited vascular permeability and significantly reduced edema as a result of stroke and infarct size associated with myocardial infarct, it said.
Currently, TargeGen has two employees, but Ulrich said he expects the company to grow to six by mid-May and to 20 employees by the end of the summer. The company has leased 8,000 square feet of space in San Diego and is scheduled to move in in mid-May.
At Forward Ventures, Ulrich said that he and others at the venture capital firm have worked “day in and day out” to develop the company.
The first round of financing was led by Forward Ventures. Enterprise Partners, of La Jolla, Calif., and other investors also participated.