Relypsa Gets Another $50M for Drug to Fight Excess Potassium

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Relypsa has soaked up a whole lot more venture capital to push its lead drug candidate through the later stages of clinical trials.

The Santa Clara, CA-based biotech company has raised $49.7 million out of a financing round that could be worth as much as $80 million over time, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company previously snapped up $70 million in a Series B venture financing in September 2010, which included OrbiMed Advisors, New Leaf Venture Partners, 5AM Ventures, Delphi Ventures, Sprout Group, and Mediphase Venture Partners. News of the latest financing was reported Friday by the San Jose Business Journal.

Relypsa was founded by a team that was looking to repeat their success with Ilypsa, a company sold to Amgen in 2007 for $420 million. Ilypsa developed a drug to soak up excess phosphorus in the blood, a complication that patients get when their kidneys aren’t working properly. Relypsa has been working to treat a different problem for patients with chronic kidney disease and diabetes. The new drug is supposed to soak up excess potassium, as a way of fighting a complication called hyperkalemia. Relypsa has designed the drug so it doesn’t get absorbed into the bloodstream, and so it stays in the gastrointestinal tract, which researchers hope will minimize the chances of causing unforeseen side effects.

The company’s drug, RLY5016, has made it through five clinical trials, and it is currently in a Phase 2b clinical trial, according to the company’s website. Back in May 2011, the company said a study of 57 patients showed that 90 percent got their bloodstream potassium levels down to a normal range after eight weeks on the therapy.

Jim Johnson, Relypsa’s chief financial officer, said via email that the new money is intended to take the company through Phase III clinical trials and a filing of a New Drug Application to the FDA. The financing is coming from existing investors plus one new investor, he says.