Calithera banks $40M; Google Ventures leads $22M iPierian round

South San Francisco-based startup Calithera Biosciences has banked a whopping $40 million Series A round to ramp up development work on a new group of cancer drugs discovered in the lab of James Wells, chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry in the University of California, San Francisco School of Pharmacy.

Wells' compounds activate procaspases and trigger apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells. "Most drug discovery efforts are focused on identifying drugs that inhibit enzyme function," says Wells.  "But, interestingly, many cellular enzymes remain dormant until activated. In the case of caspases, they can be activated on demand by mimicking the natural process with small molecules."

Morgenthaler Ventures led the financing with U.S. Venture Partners, Advanced Technology Ventures, Delphi Ventures and Mission Bay Capital also participating in the round.

- here's the Calithera release

ALSO: Another South San Francisco-based biotech, iPierian, has closed on a $22 million Series B round led by Google Ventures. The money will be used to start clinical development work while the developer seeks out pharma partnerships. Michael Venuti, president and chief scientific officer since February 2010, will assume the role of chief executive officer as John Walker steps down for "personal reasons." Release

PLUS: Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners led a €16 million round for France's Poxel, which is developing new therapies for type 2 diabetes. Poxel was spun out from Merck Serono. Release