Avalon, GlaxoSmithKline launch 3 new biotechs with $30M commitment

Avalon CEO Jay Lichter

San Diego-based Avalon Ventures has doubled up on its pipeline of programs being developed in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK). The venture group has launched three new companies, plucking new drug projects that range from cardiovascular disease, to cancer to a rare lysosomal storage disorder (LSD).

Three new companies have been created--Adrenergics, CadheRx Therapeutics, and Calporta Therapeutics--which are now in line for Series A funding of up to $10 million each as they join three other GSK-partnered companies now in residence at Avalon's incubator.

"We've done what we said we would and we're very excited by our progress," notes Avalon chief Jay Lichter, who's been scouting academia for bright new drug prospects. "Great science happens every day," he adds. "Despite cuts in funding, there are a lot of great ideas, stuff we like. We screen a couple of hundred a year; there are 12 companies at the incubator now. In general we're ahead of schedule and on budget."

  • Avalon's own in-house research team produced a lead on new drugs to treat dilated cardiomyopathy. Patients who suffer from the ailment are threatened by blood clots and an irregular heartbeat and Adrenergics will focus on developing a new drug that is going after a new target not addressed by current therapies.
  • CadheRx is going after soluble E-cadherin as its prime target, which can spur tumor cell proliferation, migration, invasion and angiogenesis in solid tumors. The biotech will pick up on the work of Sabine Brouxhon, a clinical associate professor in the School of Medicine at Stony Brook University.
  • Calporta is developing small molecule agonists of TRPML1 (transient receptor potential cation channel, mucolipin subfamily, member 1) for Niemann-Pick C disease. Lichter says that the lysosomal storage disorder drug may also be effective in targeting several other LSDs. While Avalon has been relying heavily on his West Coast research contacts to provide new drug candidates, this particular project comes out of the lab of Haoxing Xu, at the University of Michigan.

Avalon still has four more biotechs to go in its 10-company deal with GlaxoSmithKline. And at this startup rate, the full slate should be up and running in about a year.

As part of the deal, GSK will have an option to pick up development of each of these drugs. And if they pass, Lichter has the right to keep them in the portfolio and proceed solo.

- here's the release