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Eshelman Ventures Invests In RTP Pharmaceutical Developer

By Jenny Callison, posted Apr 16, 2015
Wilmington-based Eshelman Ventures recently made a significant investment in Innocrin Pharmaceuticals Inc., a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company in Research Triangle Park, according to a news release earlier this week.

Eshelman Ventures led Innocrin’s Series D $28 million financing round to support the company’s development of VT-464, a treatment for “resistant hormonally-dependent breast and prostate cancers,” the release stated. Other participants in the Series D round are the company’s existing investors: Novartis Venture Fund, Lilly Ventures, Hatteras Venture Partners, Intersouth Partners and A&B Equity Holdings.

Innocrin also announced in the release that Fred Eshelman, founder of Eshelman Ventures, has joined its board of directors.

“I am delighted to be involved with Innocrin,” Eshelman said in the release. “It is a very exciting investment opportunity and the company’s pipeline, particularly VT-464, will hopefully contribute to advances in treating difficult cancers.”

Innocrin officials said the company plans to use the proceeds of this capital raise to accelerate Phase 2 studies of VT-464, which are being led by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and the National Cancer Institute in Reston, Virginia.

This investment is the fourth Eshelman Ventures has made this year in drug research firms. In February, the venture capital firm announced it had participated in a $3.15 million first-round equity financing for Dignify Therapeutics LLC, to support development of a drug to restore bladder and bowel control to people with spinal cord injuries and spina bifida. Eshelman’s firm also announced in February it was a lead investor in a $33 million Series B financing round for G1 Therapeutics Inc. to underwrite proof-of-concept research for a cancer medication.

The third investment was in Neoantigenics, a Charlottesville, Virginia-based company that specializes in developing oncology “theranostics” – therapeutic and diagnostic – products. Its latest financing round, in which Eshelman Ventures participated, also closed in February.

Eshelman Ventures is interested primarily in making investments in private health care companies, although the firm “will consider other themes that are attractive and have large potential markets,” according to its website. The firm potentially will make angel investments, co-investments with other financial partners in fledgling companies and investments in more established companies.

The firm is its founder's newest business sortie, founded in August 2014, shortly after he sold his drug development firm, Furiex Pharmaceuticals, to Forest Laboratories. Eshelman's highest-profile business to date was Wilmington-based PPD, which the pharmaceutical entrepreneur founded in 1985 as a one-person business. He subsequently relocated the company to Wilmington. PPD was sold in December 2011 to two venture capital firms.
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