Venture capital firm Versant Ventures Inc., which operates out of Newport Beach and Menlo Park, has teamed up with Swiss biotech company Roche Holding AG to back the latest effort by Inception Sciences Inc., a pharmaceutical incubator in San Diego.

The partnership has created Inception 3 to develop drugs to treat hearing impairment.

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Versant specializes in investments in pharmaceutical and medical-device companies. It counts investments in Inception 1 and Inception 2, both part of the San Diego incubator, in its portfolio of biotechnology companies.

Inception 1 is focused on neuro-degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's. Inception 2 is focused on oncology.

Versant has $1.6 billion in assets under management. It was the second-biggest venture capital firm in Orange County in terms of money invested here, with $26 million in local companies, according to the Business Journal list published in June.

Versant will provide an undisclosed sum of equity financing to Inception 3 under the latest deal, and Roche will pay for research, based on certain milestones.

Roche will hold an exclusive option to acquire Inception 3, once the company files an application for its first compound to be considered an "investigational new drug," a drug that's not yet approved for marketing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and available only for experimental uses.