Upstart Versartis nabs $21M in Series B cash

With its lead therapy poised to begin a Phase I study, Mountain View, CA-based start-up Versartis has hauled in $21 million in its second round of venture cash. The money will be earmarked for the development of new treatments for endocrine disorders. Its lead product candidate is VRS-317, a once monthly form of human growth hormone. 

"This is an exciting time to invest in Versartis," said Shahzad Malik, a general partner of Advent Venture Partners.  Advent joined New Leaf Venture Partners in the round, along with existing investors Index Ventures and Amunix. "Its focus on applying the proprietary XTEN technology to recombinant human growth hormone provides a significant opportunity to expand the current market for rhGH products."

Index and Amunix, meanwhile, are funding a startup biotech to develop a type 2 diabetes drug it obtained from Versartis. Diartis will pursue a Phase Ia single-ascending dose study to evaluate the safety and ability of VRS-859 to maintain glycemic control for one month in T2DM patients after a single dose. 

Versartis says it is developing new proteins utilizing XTEN technology, a novel "hydrophilic sequence of natural amino acids" expressed as a fusion protein with a therapeutically active peptide or protein. Their new compounds are designed to provide improved therapeutic outcomes such as enhanced efficacy/compliance, fewer side effects, prolonged half-life (up to monthly dosing), as well as low-cost production and enhanced stability.

As part of the financing round Versartis is expanding its board by five members. They are: Srini Akkaraju, M.D., Ph.D., Managing Director, New Leaf Venture Partners; Kevin Johnson, Ph.D., Partner, Index Ventures; Shahzad Malik, General Partner, Advent Venture Partners; Willem "Pim" Stemmer, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, Amunix; and Jeffrey L. Cleland, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, Versartis. 

- here's the Versartis release
- here's the release on Diartis