A drug development company that is based on the neuroscience and urology expertise of a Duke University professor and is expanding its research presence in Durham has landed $13.25 million in first-round financing.

Dynogen Pharmaceuticals plans to use the funding to license promising compounds from other drug companies and to conduct clinical trials on them to see if they could be treatments for such disorders as incontinence, sexual dysfunction or irritable bowel syndrome, says Bob Lorette, chief business officer and executive vice president.

Several deals already are in the works, Lorette says, but he declines to name the pharmaceutical companies involved in the negotiations.

Dynogen was founded earlier this year when officials with Oxford Bioscience Partners, a Boston venture capital firm that specializes in biotechnology deals, approached Karl Thor about using his specialty – attacking genitourinary and gastrointestinal problems through drugs that treat central nervous system (CNS) disorders – as the platform technology of a new company.

Thor, Dynogen’s chief scientific officer, is co-director of NeuroUrology Research at Duke University Medical Center and is considered a world leader in his field. He developed Duloxetine, which will soon be on the market to treat overactive bladder syndrome, while working at Eli Lilly. He then went to GenuPro, a venture between Lilly and Wilmington, N.C.-based PPD, where he developed a drug for premature ejaculation that Johnson & Johnson now has in Phase II clinical trials.

“Not many neuroscientists want to study excretory functions … and urologists are mostly surgeons who don’t see things from a neurologic perspective,” Thor says. “There’s a very small group of people who work in this specialized niche, and I also have the background to understand the pharmacology of treating these problems.”

Boston-Durham axis

Oxford Bioscience led the new funding round and was joined by A.M. Pappas & Associates of Research Triangle Park, N.C., and HealthCare Ventures of Boston. As part of the deal, Myles Greenberg of A.M. Pappas and Gus Lawlor of HealthCare Ventures will join Dynogen’s board, which also includes Oxford’s Jonathan Fleming as chairman and Lee Brettman as chief executive officer.

“The drugs currently on the market for these diseases aren’t very good, either because they’re not effective or have terrible side effects, and there hasn’t been much innovation,” Greenberg says. “Here you have path-breaking research that could have a lot of market potential.”

Dynogen’s administrative offices are in Boston, but its main research center and the majority of its 14 employees are in North Carolina. The firm is in temporary quarters in Morrisville until early next year, when officials expect to move into a 10,000-square-foot laboratory under construction in Durham.

The company plans to license some compounds and conduct Phase I and Phase II trials on them before going back to the original pharmaceutical firm or finding another partner to take over Phase III trials and eventual marketing, Lorette says. The funding should last about 18 months, he says.

“We’re looking for drugs that were initially developed for CNS or other neurological problems,” he says. “What didn’t work for depression could be a very viable candidate for treating a urinary problem.”

Duloxetine, for example, followed that pattern. The drug proved ineffective in treating depression, but Thor found that it reduced the volume and frequency of involuntary urine loss in patients with incontinence by controlling certain muscles.

“We can be the urology drug discovery division for some (drug) companies because not many specialize in this area,” Thor says.

Note: Company’s web site is still under construction.