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Forge Therapeutics scores $15 million in venture funding

The proceeds will help the biotech firm push its antibiotics program toward human studies

by Lisa M. Jarvis
June 27, 2017 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 95, ISSUE 18

Forge Therapeutics has closed its first large round of financing, securing $15 million from MagnaSci Ventures, Evotec, and other investors. The tiny biotech firm, founded on technology developed in the labs of the University of California, San Diego, chemist Seth Cohen will use the proceeds to push forward its Gram-negative antibiotics program.

Forge was the subject of a C&EN story in early 2016 about what it’s like to be a young biotech firm looking for financing and partnerships during the annual JPMorgan Healthcare meeting. At the time, the company had a goal of raising its first round of funding to support development of metallo­pro­tein inhibitors—in particular, compounds that block LpxC, a zinc-containing enzyme found in bacteria.

Forge’s goal was to raise the funds by the end of 2016. CEO Zachary Zimmerman attributes the delay to two developments.

The first was the creation in July 2016 of the Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Accelerator (CARB-X), a public-private partnership that is providing grants to companies developing novel antibacterials. Forge recently received the largest of CARB-X’s first awards—$4.8 million over 15 months and potentially $4.0 million more as its project progresses.

And in December, Forge formed an alliance with Evotec, a contract research firm, to move its LpxC inhibitors through lead optimization.

With the influx of cash, Forge plans to “graduate” from the incubator space it inhabits at Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS in San Diego. The biotech firm will also hire a few key scientists to complement the Evotec researchers working on its project. It hopes to start tests on an LpxC inhibitor by 2020.

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