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GEN News Highlights : Jul 28, 2010

HemaQuest Raises $4M to Progress Mid-Stage Development

Trials in sickle cell disease, beta thalassemia, and malignancies related to Epstein-Barr virus will benefit from funding.

HemaQuest Pharmaceuticals closed an additional $4 million financing to its Series B round. The total Series B investment is now $16 million.

The money is intended to help advance HemaQuest's two lead products, HQK-1001 and HQK-1004, through Phase IIb trials. HQK-1001 is an orally administered small molecule therapeutic being developed to treat sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia. HemaQuest has been granted orphan drug designation for the compound in both diseases.

The company obtained the exclusive, worldwide license for this compound from Boston University. HQK-1001 works by inducing fetal globin and stimulating red blood cell production, which addresses the underlying pathological mechanisms in sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia.

HQK-1004 is designed to treat malignancies associated with Epstein-Barr virus. It acts by inducing the expression of a gene for a viral enzyme, thymidine kinase (TK). This enzyme is the target of several common antiviral drugs, but the gene is silenced in a number of viral-related diseases making them resistant to standard antiviral therapeutics, HemaQuest explains. Inducing the expression of the silenced gene enables the use of these antiviral drugs, such as ganciclovir, to destroy virally infected cells.