Bozeman-based investment firm Next Frontier Capital announced its first investment this week — another company based in Bozeman, SiteOne Therapeutics.

Will Price, founder and managing partner with Next Frontier Capital, wrote that the investment was “in the seven figures but was not disclosed for strategic, competitive reasons.”

The investment firm was established to promote growth in Montana, specifically in Bozeman’s high-tech industries. It closed its first $20 million fund, intended to provide funding for technology entrepreneurs, in late May.

Price has said he hopes to continue funding other companies in the area over the next few years — potentially as many as 10 to 12.

SiteOne Therapeutics is founded on technology invented at Stanford University, with which it holds an exclusive license. The company is working to develop non-opioid pain medication. Opioids are medications such as Vicodin, Percocet and Oxycontin that dull pain by reducing the intensity of the pain signals and affect the brain’s emotion-processing areas.

Stan Abel, SiteOne CEO, described opioid abuse as an epidemic. According to a statement by Next Frontier Capital, more than 2.5 million individuals abuse opioids, leading to more than 16,000 overdose deaths and costing over $72 billion annually.

“Our drug binds to a completely different target (in the brain), so it would not have the abuse potential,” Abel said.

He believes the drug, once finished, will provide a viable alternative to habit-forming opioids for people with acute or chronic pain. Many people, he said, including returning veterans, have no real alternative to using opioids to manage their pain. He believes users can become addicted even when they know the potential problems when beginning their medication.

Abel said he hopes to have the drug ready for testing in 2015 but added that “it’s biotech, so it’s not easy to predict.”

Once the company has a drug ready for clinical trials it will take years to pass various Food and Drug Administration tests. Abel estimated a drug would not become available to the public until at least 2022.

Price and Abel were introduced before Price had secured funding and had “a mutual discussion” about investment after the money became available, Abel said.

The investment will help SiteOne transition from a chemistry-based company to one more focused on developmental activities, Abel explained. He anticipates hiring for several new jobs in Bozeman once the clinical candidate is finalized and the company begins transition.

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