Drug discovery startup looks to expand pipeline and accelerate programs targeting inflammation, cancer, and metabolic disease.

The venture capital funds of two pharma giants have taken a stake in Nimbus Discovery, joining with two earlier investors to help the biopharmaceutical company secure close to $24 million in series A financing.

Proceeds from the financing will be used to accelerate existing programs targeting IRAK4 and ACC in inflammation, cancer, and metabolic disease, as well as expand the Nimbus pipeline to include new targets for several medical conditions. IRAK4 plays a pivotal role in inflammatory disease, allowing the Nimbus drug candidates to be pursued in a broad range of therapeutic applications. Humans with inactivating IRAK4 mutations are resistant to autoimmune disease but are otherwise healthy in adulthood.

SR One, the corporate venture arm of GlaxoSmithKline, and Lilly Ventures, a venture fund associated with Eli Lilly & Co., co-led the round along with Atlas Venture. The investments fit with Nimbus’ goal of partnering with larger pharmaceutical companies early in the development process, so that Nimbus can focus on drug discovery.

In connection with the financing, Kent Gossett, M.D., Ph.D., partner at SR One, and Steve Hall, Ph.D., venture partner at Lilly Ventures, have joined Nimbus’ Board of Directors.

Also participating in the series A round was Bill Gates. The Microsoft founder-chairman and philanthropist joined in March on an extension of an earlier seed financing round of undisclosed value with Atlas and Richard A. Friesner, Ph.D., professor of chemistry at Columbia University and co-founder of Schrödinger, a developer of chemical simulation software for computational drug discovery.

Schrödinger – the recipient of a $10 million investment from Gates –has  partnered with Nimbus in a drug discovery collaboration. Within the first year of that effort, Nimbus has delivered compounds for two disease targets the company considers to be pivotal in the progression of an aggressive form of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and obesity.

Last year Atlas joined with Schrödinger, to raise $3.5 million for Nimbus in a seed round. Atlas and Schrödinger co-founded Nimbus in 2009.

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