Cerulean pockets $10M as it catapults into the clinic

With the ink still drying on a new deal to license in nanoparticle technology developed by Calando Pharmaceuticals, Cerulean Pharma is set to announce later this morning that it has gone back to the venture well and drawn $10 million in B-1 financing.

"It's an inside round with the existing syndicate," Cerulean CEO Oliver Fetzer tells FierceBiotech. "Rather than go outside and trying to get someone new to lead, and take that time, we said let's keep this simple and push forward."

The new venture funds give Cerulean a runway of about a year, he adds, which will be used to accelerate the preclinical development of drugs using both Cerulean's pre-existing nanoparticle-based technology as well as the newly in-licensed cyclodextrin-based nanoparticle technology. Polaris Venture Partners, Venrock, Lux Capital and Bessemer Venture Partners participated in the round.

The deal with Calando in June also catapulted the company from a preclinical focus directly into clinical development with IT-101 "and validates the nanoparticle technology as something that is of use in the clinic," adds Fetzer. In coming months Cerulean plans to compare its internally derived nanoparticle technology with Calando's to see which would be best for the programs that it has in development. And Cerulean plans to wrap a Phase I trial of its new IT-101 program in early 2010 and then pivot into a mid-stage trial.

Cambridge, MA-based Cerulean has been developing nanoparticle technology that can be used to engineer a new or older therapy in a way that enhances its ability to hit a therapeutic target more accurately--improving efficacy and reducing the threat of toxicity. The new round increases the developer's total venture haul to more than $30 million. And it helps capitalize on a unique opportunity.

"For a whole host of reasons Calando couldn't raise adequate funding to keep their programs going forward," says the CEO. "That created an opening for us."

- check out Cerulean's release

ALSO: Akebia Therapeutics has added $16 million to its previously announced Series A round. The prior Series A round was $9 million, bringing the total raised to $25 million. Novartis Bioventures Ltd. and Venture Investors, LLC co-led the expansion financing. Release

PLUS: aTyr Pharma announced today that it has raised an additional $12 million to fund its discovery operations and development of its lead candidate. Founded in 2006 by Paul Schimmel, a Professor at The Scripps Research Institute and John Clarke of Cardinal Partners, aTyr Pharma's investors provided $12 million in 2007 to build aTyr Pharma's discovery engine and intellectual property. Release