Principia platform earns $12.5M tranche from A-list venture players

The San Francisco-based startup Principia Biopharma has landed a $12.5 million financing tranche as it preps for its first clinical program and advances plans to develop a pipeline of new drugs for cancer and autoimmune disease. Backed by a roster of well-known venture players, Principia also says it recruited Jens Oliver Funk, the former oncology R&D chief at Merck KGaA, as chief scientific officer.

The fresh stake was included in Principia's A round, which was signed off in early 2011 by New Leaf Venture Partners, OrbiMed Advisors, Morgenthaler Ventures, SR One and Mission Bay Capital. And Principia says it will be ready to ramp up its first clinical study of a small molecule drug, the first of several planned programs to come off its "reversible covalent" platform.

"We are pleased to complete the closing of our second tranche as it provides the necessary funding for Principia to advance our lead compound toward our first clinical trials in 2013," said CEO Martin Babler in a statement. According to its website, the company believes that its reversible covalent approach can deliver a stream of new therapies that can be target diseases with fewer side effects. And it has a wide selection of therapeutic areas in mind.

Babler came up in the biopharma world through the sales and marketing side of the business. He worked at Genentech after a stint at Eli Lilly ($LLY) and then ran Talima, which disappeared off the biotech map several years ago. Babler is on Infinity's board of directors.

- here's the press release