Based: San Diego
The Scoop: "Investors clearly have been excited by the company's lead program in identifying a DPP4 inhibitor for diabetes. It's a big target in a massive--and growing--market."
What makes it Fierce: Phenomix has been attracting attention for its work on inhibiting DPP4, a big target in the world of Type 2 diabetes therapies. Researchers are advancing PHX1149 in Phase IIb, looking to gather more data supporting the efficacy of the experimental oral drug. A second program aims at treating hepatitis C through inhibition of the NS3/4A viral protease.
In Phase IIa, investigators were looking for data to show PHX1149 would rank with other DPP4 inhibitors on the market. Phenomix says that the compound acts much like injectables such as Byetta, raising the levels of GLP-1, which affects insulin response and digestion. The next clinical trial will look to add more efficacy data that proves the drug matches or exceeds drugs with a similar mechanism.
"Certainly there's room for more than one DPP4 inhibitor in the market," says CEO Laura Shawver. Patients typically go through a series of treatment phases, and with the number of diabetes cases exploding, there's a huge patient population to consider.
That's been a convincing case for investors. Phenomix attracted $55 million in its third round last March, two years after it closed its Series B with $40 million. Nomura Phase4 Ventures led the last round with JP Morgan Partners, Delphi Ventures, Baker Brothers, Alta Partners, Sofinnova Ventures, Bay City Capital, CMEA Ventures, Novartis BioVenture Fund and GBS Venture Partners all participating.
What to look for: Once Phase IIb is wrapped early next year, Phenomix plans to launch a Phase III thatâ€™s likely to require 1,500 to 3,000 patients. Shawver indicates that the company will be looking for a development partner at that stage.