HemaQuest books $12M Series B to advance mid-stage programs

Seattle-based HemaQuest has snared a $12 million Series B to continue its pursuit of two new drugs for orphan diseases. New investor Aberdare Ventures led the second investment round for the start-up biotech, with De Novo Ventures, Forward Ventures and Lilly Ventures joining in.

HemaQuest is led by Ronald Berenson, a veteran investigator who went on to found Xcyte Therapies. Xcyte foundered badly in 2005 after the FDA raised some serious concerns about a clinical trial design. The developer subsequently was reduced to a shell and later merged into a Scottish company, Cyclacel, but Berenson was able to nail a $20 million Series A to get HemaQuest up and running. The developer already has two programs in Phase II--HQK-1001 and HQK-1004. HQK-1001 is being studied for sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia, while 1004 is designed to treat hematologic malignancies associated with viruses.

Back when the company launched in late 2007, HemaQuest unveiled plans to develop small molecule therapeutics "based on its short chain fatty acid derivative technologies to treat hemoglobin diseases. HemaQuest is also developing other SCFA derivatives that could prove useful in treating other hematologic disorders, such as other kinds of anemia and neutropenia."

"HemaQuest Pharmaceuticals is working in areas of increasing interest to investors and the pharmaceutical industry; serious and life-threatening orphan diseases in which patients have few therapeutic options," said Naheed Misfeldt, a partner at Aberdare, in the press release put out this morning. "They have made great progress with their first two drug candidates and we look forward to working closely with the company as these agents progress through clinical trials. In addition, we are impressed with the management team, which has considerable expertise in drug development in hematology and oncology."

- here's HemaQuest's release for more info

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