Ruxton Pharmaceuticals receives start-up funding

$5.2 million for research on ALS includes stake from venture capital firm

July 27, 2004|By William Patalon III | William Patalon III,SUN STAFF

Ruxton Pharmaceuticals, a local bioscience start-up focusing chiefly on finding a treatment for Lou Gehrig's disease, has secured $5.2 million in a first round of private funding, including $1.7 million from venture capital giant New Enterprise Associates, Ruxton and NEA announced yesterday.

At a time when the Baltimore region is working to build up its biotech sector, executives say yesterday's deal underscore's the area's bioscience strengths: Ruxton will be locally based and has licensed technology developed by a prominent Johns Hopkins researcher, while the Menlo Park, Calif.-based NEA, one of the world's top venture capital firms, also operates out of offices in Baltimore and in Reston, Va.

"This is ... a Baltimore story," said Dr. David Block, 44, Ruxton Pharmaceuticals' founder, president and chief executive officer.

The other two venture capital firms leading the deal are Domain Associates LLC of Princeton, N.J., and Aberdare Ventures of San Francisco. Ruxton intends to focus on "discovering, developing, and marketing drugs" for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the fatal disorder usually referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease.

The firm has licensed technology developed by a Johns Hopkins University professor, Dr. Jeffrey Rothstein, who NEA says is known internationally for, among other things, his study of drugs to help patients with ALS.

"Lou Gehrig's disease is so poorly treated right now," creating the need for new treatments, said James Barrett, an NEA general partner who will assume a seat on the Ruxton board of directors.

Ruxton will work closely with Hopkins as it attempts to identify one or more drugs potent, and safe, enough to take into clinical trials, the companies involved said.

Block said that Ruxton, which was founded this year, also has agreements for other technologies with Hopkins and the University of Maryland.

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