Ex-GSK team raises $30M for respiratory infection trials

The biotech is HQ's in London, U.K.

Researchers who worked at GlaxoSmithKline before leading RespiVert to a takeover by Johnson & Johnson have raised $30.4 million (£24.5 million) for their latest venture, Pulmocide. The Series B will allow Pulmocide to take inhaled treatments for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and pulmonary aspergillosis through early clinical trials.

New investor SR One, the VC arm of GSK, led the round with the support of backers who helped Pulmocide to its £17 million Series A in 2013, including SV Life Sciences, F-Prime Capital, Johnson & Johnson Innovation and Touchstone Innovations. London, United Kingdom-based Pulmocide has attracted the big name financiers on the strength of its management team and the potential of the two candidates they have started to develop.

“Pulmocide's core asset is the management team's proprietary expertise in the design of highly potent compounds with extended lung retention time and limited systemic exposure. This has enabled the development of two anti-infective drugs for serious diseases of the lung, where an inhaled therapy should deliver the optimal clinical outcome,” SR One Partner Matthew Foy said in a statement.

Many on the management team, including CEO Garth Rapeport, M.D. and CSO Pete Strong, Ph.D., list stints at GSK on their résumés. Rapeport, Strong and other members of the Pulmocide team subsequently showed they could turn the expertise in inhaled medicines they accrued at GSK and elsewhere into biotech success when they set up RespiVert. J&J bought the biotech and its pipeline of programs in COPD, cystic fibrosis and severe asthma in 2010 for an undisclosed sum reported by The Telegraph to be around $100 million.

That sale yielded an almost five times return for Imperial Innovations, now known as Touchstone, putting the ex-RespiVert team in a strong position when they set out to raise funds for their latest startup. The resulting £17 million Series A enabled Pulmocide to take inhaled treatments for the common infant infection RSV and the fungal pathogen aspergillosis through preclinical.

Using the Series B funds, Pulmocide plans to generate data on PC786 in human RSV challenge and in infants hospitalized with bronchiolitis following RSV infection. PC786 is an antiviral polymerase inhibitor that hit the RSV virus hard in animal tests.

Another tranche of the funding will support the advance of PC945, an azole antifungal Pulmocide sees treating a range of conditions that arise from infection with fungi of the genus Aspergillus.