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Langer upstart rakes in fresh venture cash for mucus-targeting drugs

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An upstart biotech company with intriguing new formulation technologies and a roster of influential backers has rounded up $6.2 million in additional seed capital. Kala Pharmaceuticals put out word about the new venture funds this morning, noting that Lux Capital, Polaris Venture Partners, Third Rock Ventures and Lighthouse Capital Partners all chipped in some of the cash. 

There are now a dozen full timers at the Waltham, MA-based biotech, says business development chief Kevin Pojasek. Most of the staffers are Ph.D.-level scientists working with the mucus-penetrating particle technology that Justin Hanes--a Johns Hopkins investigator and nanomedicine expert--initially crafted by studying the particular viruses which were able to get through the mucus barrier. Using the technology they can target a drug specifically to mucus tissue and then calibrate how long it remains active there. The technology has a wide range of possible applications, but its potential is particularly strong in cystic fibrosis, ocular disease and ailments associated with the gastrointestinal tract and female reproductive system.

Kala can now work on reformulating existing therapies, partner with biopharma on their new chemical entities and also revive failed development programs with the new approach, says Pojasek. And they're already in talks aimed at establishing partnerships with key players.

The scientific team behind Kala is a close-knit group. Hanes is a former student of the ubiquitous Robert Langer at MIT, who stepped in as a co-founder of the biotech and helped open doors with Polaris, says Pojasek. Dr. Colin Gardner, a Kala co-founder and the former CSO at TransForm Pharmaceuticals/Johnson & Johnson, did his postdoc with Langer.  

Kala has garnered a bit more than $11 million in total seed money, says Pojasek, and also announced today that it has won two grants from separate divisions of the National Institutes of Health that will advance its cystic fibrosis and ocular disease programs. Kala now has the cash needed to get through the first quarter of 2013, buying time to start working on collaborations and putting together an A round.

- here's the press release