GlaxoSmithKline and Avalon Ventures have unveiled two new biotech start-ups as part of their collaboration to launch up to ten early-stage life science companies.

Silarus Therapeutics, which is looking at iron disorders, and Graves' disease specialist Thyritope Biosciences will each receive up to $10 million in financing and R&D help. Both will be located at COI Pharmaceuticals in San Diego, the “community of innovation” established by Avalon to provide “operational support, a fully equipped R&D facility and an experienced leadership team” to its life science portfolio firms.

Silarus and Thyritope join Sitari Pharmaceuticals, which focuses on coeliac disease and was established in November 2013, as the first three firms of ten which GSK and Avalon hope to fund through preclinical proof of concept. In total, they will provide up to $495 million in financing.

'Unique model'

Lon Cardon, head of alternative discovery and development at GSK, said that “this unique model of bringing venture capital together with acadaemia and big pharma is proving to be a powerful vehicle that is working just as we had hoped, bridging the gap between excellent academic science and the transformational development of medicines that GSK can provide”.

He added that “from conception of the idea to three new companies in less than 18 months is an unprecedented pace for us and we are achieving our goal of capitalising on exciting science and at the same time increasing efficiency in drug discovery”.

GSK has the option to acquire each of Silarus and Thyritope if they come up with a clinical candidate. If the drugs major does not take this option up, ownership of those companies will remain with Avalon, which will be free to enter into other strategic transactions.