UPDATED: GlaxoSmithKline backs upstart's $17M A round for therapy against bulging-eye ailment

River Vision Development has wrapped up a $17 million first-round financing for a therapy that combats an illness that causes loss of vision and eyes to bulge from the socket. The lead backers include GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) venture unit SR One and Lundbeckfond Ventures.

Narrow River Management, an investor in River Vision, founded the startup as a special-purpose developer and manages the operation. The focus of the financing is fueling development of RV001, a protein therapy that could provide a treatment for Graves' orbitopathy (GO). The autoimmune disease causes inflammation and buildups of tissue behind the eye, which leads to the protrusion of the eyes and ocular morbidity, according to the company.

The startup's lead asset was licensed from an undisclosed "major" pharma player, Dave Madden, River Vision's CEO, told FierceBiotech in a phone interview. Madden and the company's small leadership team have been collaborating with disease experts from the University of Michigan to advance the program.

River Vision, founded in 2011, has cropped up amid growing popularity in forming highly focused biotech shops with their sights set on specific assets rather than large platforms and hopes for building the next Biogen Idec ($BIIB). Atlas Venture and CMEA are also setting up virtual biotech groups that hone the expertise of relatively few employees to test whether one of two drugs has a shot of success.

"The experience of the management team, the quality of the science behind the hypothesis and unmet medical need in GO combine to make this a very promising rare disease product opportunity," stated Brian Gallagher, a partner at GSK's SR One, who is joining the board of River Vision through the deal. 

Johan Kördel of Lundbeckfond, a unit of the Lundbeck Foundation, is also joining the startup's board.

- here's the release

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