Aristea Therapeutics Raises $15M to Develop Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Xconomy San Diego — 

New biopharma company Aristea Therapeutics has raised $15 million from Novo Holdings, the Danish investment company, and secured global rights to an investigational AstraZeneca drug that’s ready for Phase 2 study.

The San Diego, CA, company made its public debut this week after starting up quietly earlier this year.

Aristea expects its lead program, RIST4721, the drug candidate it licensed from AstraZeneca, will enter a Phase 2 clinical trial early next year. The company also plans to develop drugs to tackle serious inflammatory diseases, although it hasn’t identified which it is aiming to treat.

The company’s CEO is James Mackay, an AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) veteran who was named president and chief operating officer of San Diego’s Ardea Biosciences following its 2012 acquisition by the UK-based biopharma giant for $1.26 billion.

Mackay later became CEO of Ardea, which had developed a drug for gout, a type of inflammatory arthritis. However, by the time the FDA gave its approval to the drug, lesinurad (Zurampic)—which reduces the abnormally high levels of uric acid associated with gout—AstraZeneca had decided it wasn’t interested in keeping treatments for the disease in its portfolio.

Instead, AstraZeneca in 2016 licensed lesinurad to Cambridge-based Ironwood Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: IRWD) for U.S. use and to German drugmaker Grünenthal for Europe and Latin America and began laying off employees in San Diego ahead of a full shutdown planned for early 2018.

Ironwood struggled to sell the drug, and this year said it would end the license agreement.

Novo Holdings has an ownership stake in Danish biotech Novo Nordisk (NYSE: NVO) and manages the Novo Nordisk Foundation’s endowment. As part of the Aristea financing deal, Novo’s Tiba Aynechi and Ken Harrison have joined the company’s board of directors.