Zurex Pharma, a Madison biotech developing products aimed at preventing infections — in hospitals and at home — has raised $6.2 million in its first major funding round. Baird Venture Partners, Chicago, and the State of Wisconsin Investment Board led the financing.
Zurex has been trying for two years to land investors, said Carmine Durham, president and chief executive. Money has been tight for young companies, he said.
"We're playing our version of 'The Hunger Games' here in Wisconsin," Durham said. "For a company like ours, it's probably one of the most significant series A financings done in a long time."
Durham said the funding will help Zurex finish developing a new type of antimicrobial wash to be used on patients about to have surgery. It has been tested in two pilot clinical trials in Montana with 40 non-surgical patients, and the results were "very good," Durham said.
It will take up to two years, though, to scale up manufacturing and conduct more studies before submitting an application to the Food and Drug Administration, he said.
The product will be the second for Zurex Pharma. The first, an antimicrobial solution to be used with catheters, has gone through clinical trials and was submitted to the FDA but has been hung up on technicalities, Durham said. "It has absolutely nothing to do with the clinical effect of the product or the safety of the product," he said. "It's very frustrating."
Durham said Zurex Pharma will work toward getting the product approved in Canada and Europe, until the FDA problems are resolved.
Mike Liang, a partner at Baird Venture Partners, said because infection prevention is such a high priority for hospitals and home health care, there is a "very compelling market opportunity for Zurex."
Zurex was spun out of Ash Access Technology, of Lafayette, Ind., in 2010 and opened in Madison. It has since created a sister company, Zurex Pharm-Agra, whose ECAlogix System involves a cleansing solution for cows and dairy farm equipment. Zurex PharmAgra recently closed on $1 million in debt financing, and the two companies have moved to larger quarters at 2113 Eagle Drive, Middleton.
Durham said SWIB portfolio manager Chris Pestigiacomo helped connect Zurex with Peak Ridge Capital, which invested $1 million in the company in 2011. SWIB's support has been "critically important," said Durham, a former vice president of Bone Care International, a Middleton company acquired by Genzyme in 2005.
As part of the deal, Liang and Fred Robertson — former CEO of TomoTherapy and now an operating partner with Baird Venture Partners — will join Zurex's board of directors.