J&J, Pfizer chip in on $18M round for anti-inflammatory biotech's PhII

The venture arms for Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Pfizer ($PFE) have helped spearhead an $18 million investment round for Canada's Aquinox Pharmaceuticals as the biotech plots the next big step in a mid-stage program for its lead anti-inflammatory drug.

In a pair of completed Phase IIa studies, Aquinox says that its drug AQX-1125 achieved primary endpoints for preventing airway inflammation in patients with asthma exposed to known allergens as well as volunteers "exposed to an environmental inflammatory stimulus."

Now the plan is to move almost immediately into two Phase II studies involving COPD patients as well as patients suffering from bladder pain syndrome/interstitial cystitis. And the biotech hired Stephen Shrewsbury, the former CMO at Sarepta ($SRPT) predecessor company AVI, as its new chief medical officer.

"Commencing these Phase II clinical trials in 2013 for patients suffering from chronic inflammatory disease that desperately need breakthrough treatment is our highest priority," said Aquinox CEO David Main.

This new round for the Vancouver-based biotech comes close to three years after Aquinox last rounded up venture cash. Pfizer Venture Investments joined a group of venture groups to provide a $25 million Series B round. And this new round includes new investor Augment Investments, Ventures West Capital, and Baker Brothers Investments.

- here's the press release