BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Plethora Solutions Holdings plc is in-licensing two clinical stage products and a drug delivery technology and being paid for doing so by the venture capital investors behind Metris Therapeutics Ltd., the company that owns the assets.

In yet another example of creative approaches to financing and risk management, Metris shareholders will grant the licenses and invest £750,000 (US$1.4 million) in Plethora shares to pay for further clinical trials.

The agreement enables London-based Plethora to expand its pipeline without much affecting current cash, while Metris shareholders get access to Plethora's clinical development expertise and have a share in the value of the whole portfolio.

The compounds are M5003 for dysmenorrhea and M5003 for endometriosis. Plethora will carry out a Phase IIb study for M5003 and a Phase I trial for M5004.

Both are based on existing marketed drugs, administered directly through the vaginal wall by Metris' proprietary technology based on tampons that fulfil their regular function and also are delivery devices.

In the case of M5004, Metris has shown it can deliver the active small molecule to the endometrium with no increase in circulating blood levels. Endometriosis, a major cause of infertility, occurs when the lining of the uterus implants in the peritoneal cavity. The active ingredient of M5003 inhibits vascular endothelial growth factor, preventing stray endometrium from developing a vasculature.

Plethora will out-license both products once they have completed Phase II, which is expected to be by mid-2007.

"This agreement enables us to replenish our pipeline with new products and access novel delivery technologies without having a major impact on existing cash resources," said Steven Powell, CEO of Plethora. "The funding mechanism provides Metris shareholders with access to Plethora's clinical development expertise to drive two of its programs forward without having to fund this capability internally.

"In addition, by part-funding the program through an equity investment, Metris can share in future value generated by the current, broad Plethora pipeline."

Metris has raised £16 million in two rounds since it was formed in 1998 around the research of Stephen Smith, who was then professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Cambridge.

First round investors Schroder Ventures, Johnson & Johnson Development Corp. and 3i Group plc put in £5 million. They were joined by Sofinnova Partners and Northern Venture Managers in the second round in June 2000. n