Stealthy Lyric Pharma bags $20M for its gastro drug

South San Francisco's Lyric Pharmaceuticals raised $20.4 million in first-round financing to support its work on a hush-hush gastrointestinal drug.

The company, founded by biopharma veterans Dr. David Wurtman and Dr. M. Scott Harris, is at work on an in-licensed drug it believes can successfully treat GI disorders.

So, what's the drug? Where did it come from? And which disorders? All that's staying under wraps for now, CEO Wurtman said.

What Lyric will say is that its latest funding--courtesy of RiverVest Venture Partners, Sante Ventures, Third Point Ventures and Aperture Venture Partners--will pay the undisclosed candidate's way through two clinical trials. The first, which kicked off this month, should generate preliminary data by the end of the year, Wurtman said. The second, seeking to establish proof of concept, will begin thereafter and wrap up some time in 2017, he said.

Somewhere in between those two milestones, Lyric will be prepared to divulge specifics, Wurtman said, but in the meantime the company is keeping its head down and its priorities straight.

The biotech got started in 2013 when Chief Medical Officer Harris, who served in the same role at Avaxia Biologics and elsewhere, approached Wurtman about an opportunity in the GI space. The pair agreed on a disease target and then went out shopping for ideal assets, homing in on a candidate and negotiating a license with its owner. RiverVest stepped in with the initial seed funding and the pair hasn't looked back, Wurtman said.

Now, with a clinical study rolling, Lyric has devoted all of its attention to its top prospect, Wurtman said. There's an advantage to being a small, single-minded biotech, he said, and Lyric hopes to join the ranks of startups that have unlocked the promise of assets invented elsewhere.

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