Viamet Secures $1.95M Military Grant to Fight Fungi

By Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer

Durham-based Viamet Pharmaceuticals has won a $1.95 million grant from the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop a topical antifungal agent for preventing and treating mold infections in soldiers with battlefield wounds.

The grant, a Military Infectious Diseases Applied Research Award, will fund research and development activities for three years.

The grant affirms the importance of DoD funding to the state’s bioscience industry and indicates why the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s Bio Defense program is working to attract more DoD funding.

Viamet is advancing a broad portfolio of novel antifungal agents based on its proprietary Metallophile Technology, a medicinal chemistry platform that identifies small-molecule inhibitors of key metalloenzymes ─ enzymes containing a metal, such as iron, zinc or copper. The platform yields compounds that promise greater selectivity, fewer side effects and better potency compared to currently available antifungal agents.

“We believe that Viamet has the broadest and most robust portfolio of novel antifungal agents in the industry today,” said Robert Schotzinger, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of Viamet.

The company in May announced a second-year grant extension from the NIH to support preclinical studies of antifungal agents for the treatment of valley fever, a rare but potentially serious disease caused by the fungal pathogen Coccidioides.

Viamet’s lead drug candidate is an oral agent it is developing for the treatment of recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis, a mucosal infection for which there are no approved therapies in the United States, and onychomycosis, a common fungal infection of the nail.

Viamet is also developing an oral antifungal agent to treat cryptococcal meningitis, a life-threatening invasive fungal infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. The compound has received orphan drug designation by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, allowing seven years of exclusive market share upon regulatory approval of the drug.

In October 2014, Viamet closed on $60 million in Series D financing provided by Brandon Point Industries Limited, working with Woodford Investment Management. Other investors in the company include Novartis Venture Fund, Lilly Ventures, Hatteras Venture Partners, Intersouth Partners, Lurie Holdings and Astellas Venture Management.

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