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A Bozeman biotech firm announced it has raised $15 million to put toward developing a pain medication alternative to opioids.

In addition to the funding, Bozeman-based SiteOne Therapeutics announced a partnership with pharmaceutical giant Amgen, which will assist with the research and development of the company’s drug.

“The primary focus of this was obviously the financing of SiteOne to accelerate the buildout of the development team,” said SiteOne CEO Stan Abel. “Having access to (Amgen’s) neuroscience team and extensive experience is something we can benefit greatly from. These resources really allow us to build the team and accelerate our progress toward clinical development.”

Founded in early 2012, SiteOne is in the process of developing a drug that targets and inhibits a specific sodium channel in the body, which would effectively block pain signals to the brain. According to Abel, the company’s treatment would be a welcome alternative to current opioid painkillers such as oxycodone and fentanyl, which have adverse side effects including dependency and addiction.

From 1999 to 2015, more than 183,000 people died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids, according to the CDC, including more than 600 in Montana.

“We have a severe opioid abuse crisis throughout the U.S.,” Abel said. “Our primary motivation is to offer a non-opioid solution where currently prescription opioids are used. There is a patient population out there with a significant need.”

Much of the $15 million will go toward research at the company’s San Francisco facility, however, Abel said he hopes to also use the funds to build a development team at the Bozeman headquarters.

“I’ve already started recruiting really highly qualified and skilled drug development folks and my intent is to build a world-class pain development team and have the majority of that be here,” he said.

The company previously secured more than $3 million in equity and grant funding through the National Institutes of Health.

The most recent round of fundraising included Bozeman venture capital firm Next Frontier Capital. The firm has also invested recently in several other Montana companies, among them Submittable, Clearas, Centricient, Orbital Shift, Blackmore Sensors and Analytics, and Phoenix Labs.

“I hope that we can use and leverage SiteOne’s success to attract more biotech companies to Montana,” Abel said. “It’s a wonderful place to live, there is a thriving tech industry in Bozeman and it’s a great environment for business.”

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Kendall can be reached at lkendall@dailychronicle.com. Kendall is on Twitter at @lewdak

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