GlaxoSmithKline backs Canadian biotech in $35M deal for kidney drug

London-based drug giant GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) is making good on its promise to fund biotech advances in Canada. The drugmaker's Canadian fund played a leading role in a $35 million financing for Montreal-based Thrasos Therapeutics, a developer of therapies for renal ailments, which attracted a sextet of new backers as it seeks proof-of-concept data for a candidate drug against acute kidney injury.

With its therapy called THR-184 for kidney injury, Thrasos aims to address a loss of renal function that afflicts more than 1 million patients in North America annually, causes irreversible kidney damage, and has no drug treatment options on the market. The profile of the therapy appears to fit the mission of GSK's Canadian fund to a T, as the company christened the fund last year with $50 million to invest in scientific innovation in the country, with its pharma business in Canada and its venture unit, SR One, managing the effort.  

Led by SR One with funds from the GSK Canada Life Sciences Innovation Fund, Thrasos' new financing included five additional new investors: Advanced Technology Ventures (ATV), Fonds de solidarité FTQ, Lumira Capital, MP Healthcare Venture Management and Pappas Ventures. Previous backer SW Co. took part in the financing as well.

"Thrasos' lead therapeutic program for acute kidney injury has demonstrated strong potential in preliminary studies," SR One President Jens Eckstein stated in a press release, "and we are pleased to support this program and other potential opportunities in renal disease, a field of huge unmet medical need."

The influx of capital is expected to fund THR-184 through Phase II clinical proof-of-concept in patients with acute kidney injury (AKI). The condition leads to organ failure in more than 140,000 cases annually and some patients become dependent on dialysis, according to the biotech. With a need for preventive treatments for AKI, pharma companies have taken an interest in new therapies for the condition in development.

In May, for instance, Abbott Labs ($ABT) said it scooped up an experimental hormone analog therapy for certain cases of AKI from Danish biotech Action Pharma for $110 million. 

- see Thrasos' release

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