Third Rock startup Afferent lands $55M C round as it preps for PhIII

Afferent CEO Kathleen Sereda Glaub

Back in February, Afferent Pharmaceuticals pronounced itself satisfied with the outcome for a mid-stage study of its lead drug, AF-219, being developed for a range of conditions including pain, persistent coughing and urinary urgency. And today the venture backers behind the San Mateo-based biotech have come up with $55 million in a crossover round to fuel new work on the pipeline.

The new money from public investors is likely to raise speculation that Afferent will soon join a long queue of biotechs looking to cash in on investors' appetite for risky IPOs.

The Series C financing was led by Fidelity Management & Research Company, with participation from other crossover funds: Jennison Associates (on behalf of certain clients), New Leaf Ventures, Partner Fund Management, Redmile Group, Tekla Healthcare Investors and Tekla Life Science Investors, in addition to "an undisclosed blue chip public investment fund."

Third Rock Ventures and Pappas Ventures got together with ex-Roche ($RHHBY) researcher Anthony Ford to found the company back in 2009. At the time, the company in-licensed Roche's work on the P2X3 receptor program, focusing primarily on its potential for treating pain. By going after the P2X3 receptor subunits in joints and hollow organs, the biotech felt it had a good shot at coming up with new remedies that wouldn't trigger adverse effects in the brain or cardiovascular tissue. And since then the focus has broadened on its lead, AF-219.

The company has kept a low profile over the years, despite the role of Kevin Starr as company chairman. Kathleen Sereda Glaub, a veteran exec from Plexxikon, was brought in to run the company last fall.

"This strong Series C round provides additional optionality for Afferent value creation, while funding our dose selection studies and other studies needed to prepare our first-in-class compound, AF-219, for Phase III trials in pathologic cough, including in patients with IPF," says Glaub in a statement. "We also will progress our next compound to the clinic later this year, for cardiovascular and other diseases involving P2X3-driven afferent sensitization, as we continue to validate our P2X3 platform capabilities and further elucidate the role of this important biological mechanism that drives debilitating and chronic disorders."

- here's the release