Big Pharma Venture Firms Pitch in to $18M Round for Phase 2 Anti-inflammatory Drug Developer

The venture arms of Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer are among investors in an $18 million round for a Vancouver drug company developing small molecule therapeutics for inflammatory diseases.

The Series C for Aquinox Pharmaceuticals Inc. was led by Johnson & Johnson Development Corp. and saw participation from new investor Augment Investments Ltd. and existing investors Pfizer Venture Investments, Ventures West Capital and Baker Brothers Investment.

Aquinox’s technology activates the SHIP1 enzyme, which is expressed in blood cells and balances the activity of a key pathway for cell growth, proliferation, survival and immune function. The company says its lead candidate, AQX-1125, will begin Phase II clinical trials in the first half of this year to evaluate its ability to reduce the severity and duration of lung attacks in COPD patients and reduce inflammation and pain in patients with interstitial cystitis, or bladder pain syndrome. In Phase IIa studies just completed, it demonstrated safety and anti-inflammatory properties in humans, the company says.

GBI Research has estimated the value of the global inflammatory therapeutics market at $57.8 billion and projected growth of almost 6 percent over the next five years, fueled by a strong pipeline of candidates and strong interest from numerous major pharmaceutical companies. More than 1,000 molecules are in development, the firm says.

Aquinox was founded in 2006 based on research conducted at the University of British Columbia, the BC Cancer Agency and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute. This round brings the company’s total financing to at least $57.5 millon.