Tioga Investor Thomas McNerney Keeping Busy After San Diego Move

Xconomy San Diego — 

Thomas, McNerney & Partners, the life sciences investor that moved its West Coast office to San Diego last year, led the latest financing round in San Diego’s Tioga Pharmaceuticals, which I briefly noted earlier today. In fact, Thomas, McNerney put in $8 million of Tioga’s $10 million Series B round, and principal Jason Brown has joined Tioga’s board of directors, according to a statement today.

An existing investor, Genesys Capital Partners, also participated in the $10 million deal. The financing brings Tioga’s total investment to $52 million since the startup was founded in 2005 by San Diego’s Forward Ventures, New Leaf Venture Partners, and BB Biotech Ventures.

Thomas, McNerney’s Brown says Tioga is now in the first of two Phase 3 pivotal trials of asimadoline, an experimental drug the company has been developing for the treatment of diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome. Brown says several factors were important in making the investment, beginning with the fact that asimadoline is targeting “a very underserved market,” and the compound also has “a very clear regulatory path” since the FDA granted fast track status to asimadoline for the treatment of diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome. Brown says the data so far also has been encouraging, and the drug has a strong safety profile.

Brown, who joined Thomas, McNerney in 2007 and has been working in the firm’s Stamford, CT, headquarters, says he plans to move to San Diego in July.

It’s also worth noting that the deal marks the third new investment in Southern California since Thomas McNerney partner Pratik Shah relocated the firm’s West Coast office from San Francisco to San Diego roughly a year ago.

In January, Thomas, McNerney led a $17 million investment in San Diego-based SG Biofuels, a cleantech startup developing a genetically enhanced version of Jatropha, which produces walnut-size seeds used as a low-cost feedstock in making biofuels and specialty chemicals. The firm also participated in a $14 million investment in VertiFlex, a San Clemente, CA-based company in late-stage development of the Superion Interspinous Spacer System, a spinal implant inserted through minimally invasive surgery for treating lumbar spinal stenosis.

“As you can see it’s a pretty diverse group of investments, from medical devices to industrial biotechnology and drug development,” Shah says. “Since our announcement last year, we have been pretty active.”

Thomas McNerney also made prior investments in five other life sciences companies in the San Diego area: Auspex Pharmaceuticals; Ocera Therapeutics; Cebix; Zogenix (NASDAQ: ZGNX); and Altair Therapeutics, which shut down last year after an experimental asthma drug failed in a clinical trial.