HemaQuest Pockets Full $12M to Treat Sickle Cell and Other Blood Disorders

Xconomy Seattle — 

Seattle-based HemaQuest Pharmaceuticals has nailed down a full Series B round of financing worth $12 million, according to a company statement. This means HemaQuest has secured a second installment of $6 million, after grabbing the first chunk of cash in late January, which we first reported based on a regulatory filing.

The complete deal is being led by a new investor, San Francisco-based Aberdare Ventures. The financing also included HemaQuest’s crew of original backers: Palo Alto, CA-based De Novo Ventures, San Diego’s Forward Ventures, and Lilly Ventures, the startup investment arm at Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY). Naheed Misfeldt, a partner at Aberdare, is joining the HemaQuest board in connection with the financing, the company said in a statement.

HemaQuest is led by a familiar biotech name in Seattle—Ron Berenson, a former cancer physician at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who went on to be a co-founder of Xcyte Therapies and CellPro. Those two companies failed, but his third venture, HemaQuest, got off to an auspicious start when it raised a $20 million Series A venture round in November 2007. The company, based on research from the University of Washington, Boston University, and Colorado State University, was founded in Newton, MA. HemaQuest never issued a statement when it moved to Seattle, but it appears to have arrived here last spring, based on scanning datelines from its press release archive. (It sure looks like a Seattle company now, with a beautiful picture of the Space Needle and Mount Rainier on its website.)

What is HemaQuest doing with that $32 million it has raised in the past few years? It is developing “short-chain fatty acid” molecules for life-threatening blood disorders. The company has two experimental drugs now in the middle stage of drug development—one for sickle cell anemia, and one for patients with lymphoma that’s associated with an infection of Epstein-Barr virus. If those trials are successful, Hemaquest says it’s possible it could enter the third and final phase of clinical trials as soon as 2011.

“HemaQuest is working in areas of increasing interest to investors and the pharmaceutical industry; serious and life‐threatening orphan diseases in which patients have few therapeutic options,” Aberdare’s Misfeldt said in a statement. “They have made great progress with their first two drug candidates.”