Pulmatrix reels in $14M for its work on COPD, cystic fibrosis

Pulmatrix has pulled in $14 million in fresh venture funds to back a slate of new respiratory disease studies. The money will extend the Lexington, MA-based biotech's runway out another 18 months, through Phase IIa efficacy studies on its lead drug--a program dubbed PUR118--for both COPD as well as cystic fibrosis. And Pulmatrix CEO Bob Connelly says this new work should bring the company to the point where it can ink a lucrative partnership deal on COPD while giving the company the option to go it alone on cystic fibrosis.

Pulmatrix has a list of early-stage trials scheduled for the coming months, including two Phase Ib studies for COPD and another trial for the cystic fibrosis program. Over the last two years the biotech has shifted from a liquid formulation to a dry powder therapy that can be inhaled and used with a variety of delivery devices--a key to keeping the COPD program flexible enough to partner up with any of a number of Big Pharma companies that are active in the field. The biotech's payroll has been growing as well, hitting 40 now with plans to add a few more as circumstances require.

"We plan to enter large pivotal trials in COPD by the middle of 2013," says Pulmatrix CEO Bob Connelly, "and could partner for that indication by the early part of 2013." Connelly, who had helmed Domantis up until its sale to GlaxoSmithKline for $454 million, has talked about the possibility of selling Pulmatrix when the time is right. But with new work in cystic fibrosis added to the pipeline--which wouldn't require the big financial backing needed for a late-stage COPD study--and some preclinical programs on next-gen treatments underway, he also wants to keep all his options open.

"I think that (selling) is always a possibility," Connelly tells FierceBiotech. But Connelly says he's seen a number of pharma companies willing to wait longer and pay more for more fully developed drug programs. "One thing that changed (at Pulmatrix) is the increase in emphasis on cystic fibrosis and the option that gives the company to move much further down the line."

All of the biotech's investors came back for this new round: Polaris Venture Partners, 5AM Ventures, Arch Venture Partners and Novartis Venture Fund. Pulmatrix has now raised $60 million in venture cash along with another $10 million in grants.

- here's the Pulmatrix release