The U.K.'s Convergence Pharmaceuticals will test GlaxoSmithKline's belief that small biotechs can achieve big goals better than Big Pharma. And it's launching this week with just about every advantage a biotech start-up could dream of: A lead program ready to move immediately into Phase II, a $35.4 million bankroll from A-list investors and a group of ex-GSK scientists who can still turn to the Big Pharma company for help.
Convergence is being led by Clive Dix, a former Glaxo Wellcome research director who chaired the U.K.'s BioIndustry Association and headed R&D at PowderJect, which merged with Pfizer four years ago. Simon Tate, a former VP of GSK's Neurosciences Centre of Excellence for Drug Discovery, is CSO.
GSK spun out a small pipeline of pain drugs and research talent to get the company started, the result of its earlier decision to exit R&D work on new pain therapies. The pharma company holds a minority stake in Convergence, which drew investments from Apposite Capital, New Leaf Venture Partners and SV Life Science. In addition to the Phase II study now being readied, Convergence has another program ready to go into Phase I.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, a number of major pharma corporations have been shaking up their pipeline strategies, and that has offered an opportunity to some venture groups to create new companies to pursue programs that are being relegated to the sidelines.
"Given market conditions, we are pleased to have raised such a significant amount of funding--one of the largest European biotechnology Series A funding rounds in recent years--and feel this is a strong endorsement of the quality of the company, its products, science and the staff within it," says Dix in a statement.