Versartis nabs $20M in VC cash to take growth hormone to PhIII

California's Versartis is having quite a year, pulling down another $20 million in venture financing to get its once-a-month growth hormone through mid-stage trials.

The latest haul brings new investor Sofinnova Ventures to the table, joining Aisling Capital, Index Ventures, New Leaf Venture Partners and Advent Venture Partners, giving Versartis $45 million in venture cash this year alone.

That money will go a long way for VRS-317, the Redwood City, CA-based company's long-acting recombinant human growth hormone. The drug impressed in a Phase I study on adults with growth hormone deficiency, and Versartis is in the midst of a 30-site Phase IIa on pre-pubescent children with the same disorder, measuring efficacy by charting how fast patients grow after three and 6 months.

The most recent raise will get VRS-317 through mid-stage work and put Versartis on track to kick off a Phase III study next year, CEO Jeffrey Cleland said.

"These latest funds represent important validation of our recently presented Phase Ib results in pediatric patients and provide us with additional resources to continue our positive momentum as a leader in long-acting growth hormone therapy," Cleland said in a statement.

Versartis' $45 million year follows a $21 million Series B closed in early 2011, and the company has raised more than $65 million since its 2008 foundation.

VRS-317 owes its once-monthly capability to XTEN, technology licensed from Amunix that uses natural amino acids to extend the half-life of protein drugs, a method the company said is cheaper and more effective than traditional polyethylene glycol.

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