HemaQuest nails $13M VC extension for sickle cell program

A little more than a year after it named a new executive team to run the company, San Diego-based HemaQuest has rounded up $13 million in new venture cash.

The new investment is being referred to as a $13 million Series B extension, with existing investors Aberdare Ventures, De Novo Ventures, Forward Ventures, Latterell Venture Partners and Lilly Ventures stepping in with the new money. In a release, HemaQuest noted that it now has the cash it needs to get through a Phase IIb study of its lead drug for sickle cell, HQK-1001.

John Longenecker, a veteran of the drug developer Favrille, was named CEO of HemaQuest at the end of 2010. At the same time, the biotech announced that Richard Ghalie, was named chief medical officer and Tamara Seymour was appointed financial chief.

"This additional financing enables us to continue our HQK-1001 clinical development program for sickle cell, moving another step closer to a new therapy for this devastating disease affecting underserved populations around the world," Longenecker said.

HemaQuest had been led by Ronald Berenson, a veteran investigator who went on to found Xcyte Therapies. Xcyte foundered badly in 2005 after the FDA raised some serious concerns about a clinical trial design. The developer subsequently was reduced to a shell and later merged into a Scottish company, Cyclacel, but Berenson was able to nail a $20 million Series A to get HemaQuest up and running.

- here's the press release