Aileron raises $40M

Four of the world’s biggest drugmakers have come together to inject venture funding into a U.S. biotech company that is using novel chemical structures to make a new class of medicines.

The venture arms of GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Roche and Eli Lilly have invested $40 million in Aileron Therapeutics. Other investors in the latest funding round include Excel Medical Ventures and Apple Tree Partners. Previously, Aileron raised about $20 million in funding.

Aileron, based in Cambridge, Mass., believes its synthetically locked, or “stapled,” peptides will be able to target biochemical pathways involved in cell function and disease that conventional drugs cannot reach.

It plans to use the new money to pay for advancing the first experimental products towards clinical trials in 2010. Potential areas for treatment include cancer, and immune, metabolic and infectious diseases.

“We believe that stapled peptides could represent a ‘fourth estate’ in therapeutics, emerging as a major class akin to small molecules, antibodies and vaccines,” says Michael Diem, partner at SR One, Glaxo’s venture arm.

In recent years, the venture capital divisions of large pharmaceutical companies have taken a more active role in funding young biotech companies as the credit crunch has turned off much of the financing from conventional venture firms.

But it is unusual for drugmakers to come together in such a large group to gain access to a new technology. —Ben Hirschler, Reuters