Genoa Pharmaceuticals — a biopharmaceutical company working on treatments for respiratory diseases — was operating under the radar just last week.
But the company sprung into the limelight Monday with a $62 million series A round and the appointment of biotechnology veteran Bruce Montgomery as CEO.
The company said the round will fund its lead treatment, called Aerodone, through stage II clinical trials, which takes it half way to completing the rigorous clinical trial process required for approval by the FDA.
The company was founded by Dr. Mark Surber in 2011 to develop his work on Aerodone. He served as CEO until handing the reigns to Montgomery and will now serve as the company’s chief scientific officer.
Aerodone is an inhalable form of a drug called pirfenidone, a treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), which is a deadly orphan disease that causes extensive lung scarring.
Montgomery told GeekWire he first encountered IPF when he was working at biotech company Gilead Sciences, which looked at a potential treatment for the disease.
That treatment didn’t pan out, “but I got quite interested in it and realized: Here’s a disease that kills more people a year than breast cancer, but nobody knows what it is,” he said.
Although there are two treatments on the market for IPF, they both come with serious side effects that limit how much a patient can take, meaning they can’t be taken to their full potential. Genoa is hoping to find a better solution in Aerodone.
“Unless you get a lung transplant or die of something else, this disease is essentially a death sentence. So that has me interested,” Montgomery said. And importantly, there’s a good chance Genoa’s treatment will work, he said.
Genoa’s headquarters and development efforts are based in Seattle and Surber leads the company’s San Diego office, focused on nonclinical support of Aerodone and the company’s research efforts. The company currently has seven employees between the two offices.
Montgomery said the clinical trial of Aerodone will need to take place at multiple sites because the disease is relatively rare, but he hopes to have a site in Seattle.
Montgomery has long been a leading figure in Seattle’s biotechnology world. He’s native to the city and earned two degrees from the University of Washington.
His career includes entrepreneurial ventures, stints as a leading researcher and executive at some of the Pacific Northwest’s most prominent biotech companies, and scientific achievements that have extended or saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients.
Montgomery said he fielded several questions about when he was going to finally leave Seattle after he was announced as Genoa’s CEO.
“In a body bag!”
He said Seattle has a “group of great biotech talent” and that he’s excited to continue building biotech companies in the city.