A small British biotech run by a group of former GlaxoSmithKline scientists has raised $30m (£24.2m) to continue developing two treatments for deadly viral and fungal lung infections.
Pulmocide, which is based at Imperial College’s innovation hub in London’s South Kensington, is in the early stages of developing two inhaled medications. The first is for babies with a life-threatening lung infection called Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), for which there is no vaccine or treatment.
While all babies get RSV by the age of two, it can be fatal if contracted before three months old because the lungs are immature.
“It is an extremely common cause of hospitalisation and a major problem for the NHS when the season strikes in the winter month,” said Garth Rapeport, chief executive of Pulmocide.
The second drug is an experimental treatment for Aspergillosis, a fungal infection that affects people with underlying respiratory diseases, such as cystic fibrosis and asthma as well as lung transplant patients.
“They can develop this nasty infection which is incredibly difficult to treat with oral tablets,” said Mr Rapeport. “Our approach is to direct the drug to the site of the infection through an inhaler.”
The $30m cash injection is Pulmocide's second, having already secured $17m in an initial fundraising round.
The fresh money comes from its existing backers: venture capital firm SV Life Sciences, J&J DC, the venture capital arm of Johnson & Johnson, Touchstone Innovations and F-prime, the venture capital arm of Fidelity.
The biotech has also attracted investment from two new supporters, SR One, the corporate venture capital arm of GlaxoSmithKline and Longwood, a venture capital group based out of Boston.
It's positive news for Britain's blooming life sciences industry, which is now a major focus of investment in the Government's industrial strategy.
The fundraising also follows a number of successful rounds in the sector in recent months, including the £100m stock market listing of Arix Bioscience, backed by British biotech entrepreneur Sir Christopher Evans.
“The environment for funding has definitely improved,” said Mr Rapeport. “There are more US and European entities looking for top teams and clinical assets in which to invest.”
Pulmocide formed in 2013 and has 10 employees, most of whom worked together at GlaxoSmithKline in the 1990s and early 2000s in the field of inhaled medicines.
The team already has a track record of success. A company they started after leaving GSK, called Respivert, was acquired by Johnson & Johnson in 2010 for roughly $100m.
"Our success with Respivert has put us in touch with top tier investors," said Mr Rapeport.