Amphora Discovery, which is seeking to develop a series of new drugs in areas of oncology and neurology, has closed on $20 million in C round financing.

Amphora landed two new high-profile investors in Novartis Venture Fund and Aventis Capital. The firms are the venture capital arms of drug giants Novartis and Sanofi-Aventis.

Aventis signed a drug development deal with Amphora in March.

3i Group led the round.

Existing investors in Amphora — ARCH Venture Partners, MPM Capital, Venrock Associates and Versant Ventures, also participated in the round.

“The quality of both new and existing investors and their confidence in Amphora provides strong validation of the value of Amphora’s programs and systems approach,” said Peter Savas, Amphora’s board chairman, in a statement. “The funds raised in this round will allow Amphora to remain focused on advancing drug discovery programs for our partners as well as accelerating the preclinical development of our internal drug candidates.”

Savas, a managing partner in Tug Hill Partners LLC, took over as chairman in August. Savas served formerly as president and CEO of Aderis Pharmaceuticals.

The company beefed up its management team in November. Paul Steed was named the executive director of preclinical biology, and Carla Suto took over as executive director of high throughput biology.

Steed served most recently as associate director and program leader of inflammation and immunology at Xencor. He also worked at Novartis for 10 years.

Suto was senior director of high throughput screening and information technology at Merck. She has also worked at SIBIA Neurosciences and Parke-Davis.

Amphora has two compounds in advanced development. AKT1 targets cancer; P38A holds potential use against inflammation.

Amphora closed on $23 million in B round financing in December of 2002.