New biotech launched with $24M, PIII drug

A trio of venture capital firms has chipped in $24 million to fund a new biotech company, which is starting out with a late-stage development program licensed in from Unigene Laboratories. Unigene gets a 25 percent stake in the company and a schedule of milestones and backers announced that a biotech veteran will helm the new venture.

MVM Life Science Partners, Quaker BioVentures and Novo A/S are acting as godfathers of the newly hatched Tarsa Therapeutics, which now is stepping in to take charge of a Phase III trial of an oral osteoporosis therapy that had been in development at Unigene. The new company, based in Philadelphia, will work on a new version of calcitonin, a drug now only available in intranasal and injectable forms. David Brand, the former CEO of Cardiokine, has been named the new CEO of Tarsa. Dr. James P. Gilligan, Unigene's VP of product development, will become Tarsa's chief scientific officer.

"Calcitonin has been proven safe and effective in the treatment of osteoporosis in large numbers of patients over many years, and current worldwide sales are estimated at about half a billion dollars," says Brand. "The broader use of calcitonin, however, has been limited by its availability solely in injectable and intranasal forms. Tarsa's unique, once-daily oral calcitonin tablet has the potential to offer patients the proven safety and efficacy of calcitonin, with the significant advantage of easier administration and enhanced long-term compliance."

- check out the release