Somnus reaps $15M in VC cash for Ph2 sleep drug

Somnus Therapeutics, a small start-up biotech based in Bedminster, NJ, has rounded up a $15 million Series A round to finance a Phase II study of a new sleep therapy.

Somnus is a single-project virtual company, CEO Gary Cupit tells FierceBiotech this morning, with three fulltime employees and four dedicated consultants working on the project. The game plan for now is to focus on the mid-stage study and get ready for an end-of-Phase-II meeting with the FDA in a little more than a year. At that point he expects to out-license the drug, unless someone comes in and says "let's build a company around this" product.

Cupit's group is taking the generic insomnia drug Sonata and coupling it with sustained-release technology in-licensed from SkyePharma. Cupit - a veteran biopharma exec with stints at Novartis and Sapphire Therapeutics--believes that the approach will deliver a product that can be used to help prevent people from waking up two or three hours after going to sleep--a big segment of the market. "We're not treating people who have trouble going to sleep," he adds. "It's for those people who sleep and then wake up."

Care Capital provided the seed money to fund three early-stage studies, says Cupit. And the VC group stayed in on the Series A, which was led by CTI Life Sciences Fund. INC has been signed up as the CRO for the mid-stage study. Cupit adds that he's always looking for new products to in-license. "As you know, it's very attractive to do it now," says the CEO. "Valuations for compounds are very low."

- check out the Somnus release