Diabetes drugmaker raises VC funding at massive valuation

April 2, 2014, 1:03 AM UTC

FORTUNE — For many Type II diabetics, it’s a familiar routine. Pull out a syringe once or twice per day, in order to inject medicine that will help your body better regulate its use of insulin. It can be inconvenient, expensive and mildly painful.

In Boston, however, there is a company working to transform Type II diabetes treatment into a once-per-year experience.

It’s called Intarcia Therapeutics, and today announced that it has raised $200 million in new venture capital funding led by RA Capital. Moreover, Fortune has learned that the round was done at a pre-money valuation north of of $1.5 billion — the sort of lofty VC mark that usually is reserved for consumer or enterprise IT companies.

What Intarcia has done is twofold:

1. Rig the chemistry: The proteins and peptides within most diabetes medicines are unstable for long periods at room temperature, let alone at human body temperature. But Intarcia has figured out a way to achieve long-term stability inside the human body for a period of more than three years.

2. Leverage existing technology: Intarcia delivers its therapeutics via an implantable, osmotic mini-pump (about the size of a matchstick) that first was developed and approved for use with a prostate cancer drug. The implant process takes about one minute, and only is needed to be done annually.Therapeutic

Intarcia’s therapy has been implanted in around 3,000 patients to date, including around 2,500 in ongoing Phase 3 trials. The company reported strong early results at the recent J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, particularly among patients who were unable to otherwise control their blood glucose levels via diet, exercise or oral diabetes therapies.

In September the company is expected to complete its first pivotal Phase 3 trial required for regulatory approval, along with results from a high base line study. Next year it plans to release a so-called “superiority study,” comparing its product to Merck’s Januvia product.

“Our technology is really derisked,” explains Intarcia CEO Kurt Graves. “The drug we’re using is an approved drug that’s been used in millions of people, but we’ve just transformed one part of it. And, from a tech perspective, the pump also has been used before for other drugs.”

Graves adds that the company could have gone public now, but chose the private funding because while its valuation is high, it is only at “a fraction of its potential.”

In addition to RA Capital, other Intarcia investors include Farallon Capital Management, Foresite Capital, Franklin Templeton, Fred Alger Management, New Leaf Venture Partners, Venrock and Quilvest.

Sign up for Dan Primack’s daily email newsletter on deals and deal-makers: GetTermSheet.com