Pfizer Invests in Rhythm to Support Diabetes, Obesity Drug Programs

Xconomy Boston — 

Boston-based Rhythm can move ahead with its experimental drugs for obesity and diabetes assured of a very deep-pocketed partner. The startup announced today that Pfizer Venture Investments, the venture capital arm of New York pharma giant Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), agreed to invest $8 million in the company, completing a $33 million Series B financing.

That brings Rhythm’s total financing to a healthy $73 million since the company launched. Pfizer joins MPM Capital, New Enterprise Associates, Third Rock Ventures, and Ipsen in the Series B round. Rhythm incubated at MPM Capital in Boston and raised $40 million in its first round of funding in 2010.

The company is developing two peptide-based drugs that target hormones that regulate appetite and other metabolic functions. As Xconomy reported, the startup scored a coup at its outset when it licensed the two drugs from French biotech powerhouse Ipsen, including one that targets ghrelin, a hunger-stimulating hormone that has intrigued scientists as a way to treat obesity and diabetes since it was first identified in 1999. Several companies are pursuing drugs that target ghrelin, but none are close to making it to the market.

In October Rhythm reported the successful completion of two Phase 1 trials for its ghrelin drug, RM-131, which is being developed for gastrointestinal disorders associated with diabetes. The company is now in Phase 2 trials with RM-131 while its second compound, RM-493, is completing Phase 1 clinical trials for the treatment of obesity and diabetes.

Barbara Dalton, vice president of venture Capital for Pfizer Venture, said in a statement that “Rhythm’s metabolic programs are compelling because of the initial proof-of-concept data from ongoing clinical programs, along with the fact that peptide therapeutics have delivered high success rates in clinical development.”