Elevation Pharmaceuticals Raises $30M to Develop Aerosol Treatments for Pulmonary Diseases

Xconomy San Diego — 

San Diego-based Elevation Pharmaceuticals, a biotech startup developing aerosol-based treatments for respiratory diseases, said today it has raised a tranched $30 million in Series A venture funding. It’s a sizable round for the local life sciences community, but other recent fundings have come close. Last month, VentiRx raised $25 million, Pfenex got $24 million, and Zogenix got $20 million.

Elevation was co-founded in 2008 by Cam Garner, a San Diego serial entrepreneur who serves as Elevation board chairman; CEO Bill Gerhart, the former chief executive of Mpex Pharmaceuticals; and Ahmet Tutuncu, a former vice president of medical affairs at Verus Pharmaceuticals. Garner was previously a founder at San Diego specialty pharmaceutical companies Somaxon Pharmaceuticals, Zogenix, Evoke Pharma, Meritage Pharma, DJ Pharma, and Xcel Pharmaceuticals. He was also the chairman and CEO of San Diego’s Dura Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by Elan in late 2000.

The capital will carry development of Elevation’s first candidate through mid-stage clinical trials and enable the biotech to begin development of a pipeline of product candidates targeted at underserved patient subpopulations with respiratory disease, Gerhart said in a statement.

Elevation’s lead drug candidate, EP-101, is a long-acting molecule that opens constricted bronchial tubes in the lungs. It is intended for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive disease chiefly caused by smoking. Despite anti-smoking campaigns, COPD is the fastest growing major disease in the U.S. and around the world. It is currently the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

The company has partnered with PARI Pharma, a device maker based near Munich, Germany, that specializes in aerosol delivery devices and drug products. Elevation and PARI are working to deliver Elevation’s EP-101 using PARI’s eFlow technology, a handheld nebulizer that turns a liquid into a fine mist. In its statement, Elevation says the combination is expected to significantly reduce the treatment burden and improve clinical outcomes for COPD patients requiring nebulizer therapy.

Elevation’s venture investors include Canaan Partners, TPG Growth, Care Capital, and Mesa Verde Venture Partners. Elevation says it has added Canaan general partner Brent Ahrens, TPG Biotech managing director Heather Preston, and Care Capital’s Jan Leschly to its board of directors.