aTyr Pharma Raises $12 Million in Venture Funding

Xconomy San Diego — 

aTyr Pharma, a San Diego-based developer of protein drugs, said today it has raised $12 million in additional venture capital to develop treatments for autoimmune diseases, metabolic disorders, and blood conditions.

The company raised the cash from Alta Partners, Cardinal Partners, and Polaris Venture Partners. It’s the second big round of financing for aTyr, which raised another $12 million back in 2007.

aTyr is founded on research by Paul Schimmel at The Scripps Research Institute that studies a group of enzyme that perform catalyzing reactions in the body—called aminoacyl tRNA synthetases. Schimmel has a long record of biotech entrepreneurship, as a co-founder of Cambridge, MA-based Alkermes (NASDAQ: ALKS), Lexington, MA-based Cubist Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: CBST), and Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY).

aTyr is splitting its research between its San Diego headquarters, and at Pangu BioPharma, a majority-owned subsidiary at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. This gains aTyr not only outside research help, but matching funding provided by the Innovation and Technology Fund of the government of Hong Kong.

“The decision to have an Asian presence for aTyr Pharma was driven by our recognition of the progress China has made in meeting international standards while capitalizing on government support for building biotechnology in China,” Schimmel said in a statement.