Vela Pharmaceuticals Inc., pulling in the requisite funds for growth and clinical progress, raised $25 million in its fourth round of financing for its central nervous system drug development program.
“It is really to continue to build out the team, but most importantly to move our programs in clinical testing further along,” said Stefan Antonsson, vice president, corporate business development at Vela Pharmaceuticals.
Vela, of Lawrenceville, N.J., raised $16 million in its third round in November 2000. The $25 million financing was led by JP Morgan Partners, of New York, with previous investors also participating, including New Enterprise Associates, of Baltimore, and Venrock Associates, of New York. (See BioWorld Today, Nov. 2, 2000.)
Antonsson said Vela’s next financing move will be contingent on several things.
“Depending on the progress of our internal programs and our in-licensing efforts, and depending on the market, we may do another private round or we may go public,” he said. “But I wouldn’t be surprised to see another private round.”
Vela’s business model has the company benefiting from the work of others. The company in-licenses products that have been tabled by others in the industry and also develops new uses for generic products. Similarly, it reformulates marginal products and also expands access to agents that have been proved to be safe and effective in a limited geographic region. It has a burgeoning product pipeline including its lead product, an anxiety drug and is looking for more.
“We’ve got two products that are in the clinic in Phase II proof-of-principle studies, and we have another product that is about to enter Phase I, probably this quarter,” Antonsson said. “And we have one that is still preclinical.” Antonsson, who wouldn’t discuss product specifics, added that the company is in discussions for further in-licensing and said that how that plays out will not only mold the company’s pipeline but also determine how many people the company will look to hire.
“We’re at 17 full-time employees,” he said. “[Hiring] depends on the specific progress we make on the potential in-licensing. We have some term sheets out and we need to see what comes to fruition. We just don’t know where those talks will go, and that will determine what happens.”