News Article

University of Florida start-up, AGTC, lands $37.5M in VC for novel approaches to curing rare genetic respiratory and retinal diseases
Date: Nov 26, 2012
Source: innovosource ( click here to go to the source)

Featured firm in this article: Applied Genetic Technologies Corporation of Alachua, FL

an Alachua-based biotechnology company has secured $37.5 million in venture capital funding in what is believed to be the largest private venture deal ever for an area company.

Applied Genetic Technologies Corp. announced that a syndicate of three new investors has joined three existing investors in the funding round to move its genetic therapies through human clinical trials.

AGTC is working on developing cures for rare genetic respiratory and retinal diseases.

The investment round brings the company's funding to date to almost $88 million following $45 million in prior private investments and $5.5 million in grants.

AGTC has seven employees and expects to add eight more within a year, said Sue Washer, president and CEO.

"These gene therapy products that AGTC is working on are almost like miracles," said David Day, director of technology licensing at the University of Florida. "These are the kinds of things that change people's lives in a permanent way for the better. To get cures for diseases closer to market is great."

The funding also likely moves the company closer to being acquired by a bigger company, he said.

Much of the company's technology is licensed from UF. AGTC was founded in 1999 by Nick Muzyczka and four colleagues from UF and the University of North Carolina based on developments at the UF Powell Gene Therapy Center. They developed a virus that delivers healthy copies of genes to replace defective copies.

The company started in the UF Sid Martin Biotech Incubator in Alachua and remains in Progress Corporate Park.

The treatments include a cure for a life-threatening respiratory disease with emphysema-like symptoms that affects people at a young age and would be an improvement on an existing treatment. AGTC also is developing cures for two retinal diseases that cause blindness in young patients and currently have no cures.

Washer said the treatments are about four years from market. New therapies typically take eight to 12 years for FDA approval.

The investment is one of several large deals for area biotech companies this year. In September, Pasteuria Bioscience announced that it is being acquired by Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta in a deal worth as much as $113 million, and last month AxoGen announced a $21 million investment deal.

AGTC's new investors include Alta Partners of San Francisco; S.R. One Limited, the venture capital arm of GlaxoSmithKline; and Osage University Partners, which invests in spin-out companies from research institutions. They joined existing investors InterWest of Menlo Park, Calif., Intersouth of Durham, N.C., and MedImmune Ventures of Gaithersburg, Md.

In 2003, AGTC raised more than $15 million, one of the largest venture capital investments in Florida at the time.

Ed Hurwitz, general partner of Alta Partners, said the investors believe AGTC can cure a large number of genetic diseases based on encouraging clinical results.