Pharmalink grabs $15M VC round for key studies on cancer, renal disease drugs

Pharmalink CEO Johan Häggblad

Stockholm-based Pharmalink AB is banking $15 million from a C round designed to get one drug through a Phase IIb study and position another therapy for a pivotal trial of its own. Two of the biggest venture investors in the Nordic region--Investinor, a new investor, and Industrifonden--are putting up the money.

Pharmalink is planning to put Nefecon into a Phase IIb trial for progressive IgA nephropathy, the most common form of primary glomerulonephritis and a trigger for end-stage renal disease. The value here is that early treatment of the disease could offer an alternative to dialysis and transplantation for patients. Nefecon is an enteric formulation of a corticosteroid and received an orphan drug designation from the FDA. Positive results from the Phase IIb in 2015 would set up a pivotal Phase III study that could read out in 2018.

Busulipo, meanwhile, is being positioned as a conditioning treatment for bone marrow transplants. The liposome/lipid complex formulation is designed to improve the safety and stability of busulfan, a chemotherapy.

Johan Häggblad, who came in as CEO of Pharmalink back in 2004 to focus on developing new therapies and reorganizing the pipeline, says the company is focused on reformulation and repurposing work. The plan is to push Nefecon through Phase IIb, execute regional licensing deals in Europe and the U.S. ahead of the Phase III and keep Nordic rights. Busulipo requires only a bioequivalence study with the existing product. And because the pivotal trial can start in 2014, Pharmalink is actively seeking a U.S. partner now for that program.

Now that Investinor has stepped in to back the company, adds Häggblad, its new connections have opened some doors to the cancer drug cluster around Oslo in search of new programs they can either buy or collaborate on. And the CEO is particularly interested in some of the new immunotherapy work underway at some of these biotechs.

"The plan here is to find partners, do deals," the CEO tells FierceBiotech. "We're actively scouting new products."

Like a lot of small biotechs, Pharmalink is distinctly virtual, relying on a core team of 6 while working with a broad network at a number of outsourcing companies.

- here's the press release