Houston Biotech Vapogenix Raises $8.2M for Phase 2 Trial

Houston—Vapogenix, a biotech developing a topical non-opioid medication for localized pain, announced Thursday it has raised $8.2 million in a Series C round of funding.

The capital will be used for a Phase 2 proof-of-concept study for its drug candidate, AWARD, (short for A Wound Analgesic with RapiD action). The funding comes from previous investor Switzerland-based Pamoja Capital, as well as individual investors. This brings the total funding raised by Vapogenix to $18.2 million.

Vapogenix is developing a rapidly acting topical analgesic made of volatile anesthetics, the kind of drugs currently inhaled by patients during general anesthesia.

There are already topical pain relief creams available, like prescription-only EMLA and Bengay, which is available over-the-counter. While the active drugs in those therapies—the “caines,” such as lidocaine or benzocaine—can relieve pain and numb the affected area, they can take up to an hour to work.

Danguole Altman, Vapogenix’s CEO, says a growing opioid addiction among Americans makes the need for its drug candidate even greater.

“Overdoses involving opioids killed more than 28,000 people in 2014 and more than half of those deaths were from prescription opioids,” she says. “This horrific epidemic demands that we find better, more innovative solutions to pain management.”

Altman points that that the current financing round includes several physician-investors from one of the country’s largest pain management group, National Spine and Pain Centers.

Vapogenix was founded 10 years ago, and initially it tested its initial product using volatile anesthetics as a rapidly acting topical analgesic to numb the skin for IV insertions or dermatological procedures, especially those in children. By March 2015, the company had raised $5.1 million and had just completed a phase 1 study with 42 patients. At the time, Altman said the drug was well tolerated.

Altman says the company will now focus on using its formulation as AWARD in order to treat pain from wounds. “We can build off the work that the company has been doing the last number of years” through the Phase 1 trial, she says. “We have been told we can go straight into Phase 2 based on the data we already have.”

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