BioWorld International Correspondent

Antisense Pharma GmbH raised €27 million (US$39.5 million) in a third investment round funded solely by MIG AG, which also was the only investor in its €18 million funding round two years ago.

The Regensburg, Germany-based company is using the cash to fund a Phase III trial of its lead drug candidate, AP 12009, an antisense translational inhibitor of transforming growth factor-beta2 (TGF-beta2), which is in development for treating malignant gliomas. The study is due to begin next year in centers in Europe, North America and Asia.

"Preparations are ongoing. We will start as soon as possible," company spokeswoman Heike Specht told BioWorld International. "We will compare AP 12009 to the standard chemotherapy treatment with temozolomide. Parameters will include tumor response and survival endpoints," she said.

The company aims to demonstrate that AP 12009, a phosphorothiorate oligodeoxynucleotide, confers a benefit over existing therapies. In a Phase IIb study, reported at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago in June, the company and its collaborators demonstrated a survival benefit of more than nine months for anaplastic astrocytoma patients receiving the antisense treatment over chemotherapy, she said. The compound also is in Phase I/II clinical studies in colorectal carcinoma, malignant melanoma and pancreatic cancer.

Funds managed by Munich, Germany-based MIG comprise the largest single shareholder in Antisense, although it does not have a controlling interest in the company, MIG director Michael Motschmann told BioWorld International.

Some €50 million of the €300 million under MIG management has been invested in Antisense to date, an unusual level of commitment to one life science investment.

"We were approached by other venture capitalists who were interested in taking a piece," Motschmann said. However, the company, along with MIG - whose own backers are retail investors who invest anything from several thousand to €1 million in its funds - decided to maintain its small investor base. "This is one of the reasons why the company is where it is today," he said.

Antisense is "definitely in a situation" where it could enter a licensing deal right now, but it is under no pressure to do so, he said. The company, which has raised more than €60 million since its founding in 1998, is now funded to take AP 12009 through approval, which could happen in 2010. "This is the target. Due to the high medical need in this indication we are confident that this target is realistic," Motschmann said.