UPDATED: Novartis Venture Fund leads $36M raise for Sorbent

Novartis Venture Fund has stepped in to lead a big Series B expansion for Sunnyvale, CA-based Sorbent Therapeutics, which is engaged in a mid-stage trial of a new treatment designed to flush excess amounts of fluids like sodium and potassium from patients. Novartis joined Sofinnova Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners, CMEA Capital and AgeChem in bumping the second round by $36 million, bringing the total to $53 million.

Sorbent's lead program is CLP-1001, a "super absorbent" polymer that has shown promise for flushing the system of excessive amounts of fluids, sodium and potassium that threaten patients suffering from kidney failure and congestive heart failure. The company is run by Detlef Albrecht, a veteran  of Ilypsa and Relypsa, where he also worked on polymers. The polymer technology being studied at Sorbent was obtained from Dow Chemical, which has an equity stake in the venture.

Sorbent's polymer program has undergone a significant shift. The developer--a virtual company with three employees working with a network of advisers and consultants--had been focused on dialysis patients, Albrecht told FierceBiotech today. But with CMS bundling payments for dialysis services the company felt the reimbursement risk was too high. That caused them to shift focus to cardiology and CHF, where the market is bigger and the potential for earnings is higher.

The plan now is to finish an ongoing Phase II with 100 patients early next year and then use this new B round money to back a much larger Phase II study which can deliver solid proof-of-concept data and the right dose for Phase III. In the meantime, says the CEO, he's in talks with potential partners. Sorbent also plans to grow the staff a little, hiring three more people but keeping the burn rate as low as possible.

"The CLP platform of Sorbent presents an attractive investment opportunity and we are especially encouraged by the clinical data that Sorbent has generated to date, which shows promise for various indications in the cardio-renal field," said Markus Goebel, managing director of Novartis Venture Funds.

- here's the Sorbent release