An antifungal compound from Morrisville, North Carolina-based Viamet has been selected for inclusion in the NIH’s Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases Program, a government-funded program designed to speed developments of new therapies for rare and neglected diseases. Viamet’s compound was one of only four selected for funding. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Cryptococcal meningitis is a fungal infection that affects the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It afflicts more than 1 million people in the developing world annually and kills about 500,000, according to research reports.
Viamet President and CEO Dr. Robert Schotzinger said in a statement that animal tests show that the Viamet compound selected for the NIH program has shown better efficacy against cryptococcal meningitis compared to standard therapies.
“With the significant financial support of the TRND program, we will be able to rapidly move this promising therapy forward in development,” Schotzinger said.
Viamet has developed a proprietary technology that helps develop drugs that shut down the actions of enzymes that need the presence of a metal to start chemical reactions. The company’s proprietary “metalophile technology” has been used to develop compounds that address unmet medical needs in oncology and infectious disease. Viamet last year signed a licensing deal with Novartis (NYSE:NVS) that could bring Viamet up to $200 million if the company’s technology can develop certain enzymes for the Swiss pharma giant.
Viamet was co-founded by Holden Thorp, who is now chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The company has raised more than $24 million in venture capital from investors that include Intersouth Partners, Hatteras Venture Partners, Novartis Option Fund, Lilly Ventures, Lurie Investment Fund, Astellas Venture Management and Headlands Ventures.