GlobeImmune Inc., which is developing a pipeline of recombinant yeast-based immunotherapies called Tarmogens, brought in $41.2 million in a Series C round to fund Phase II development of its lead compound in cancer and hepatitis C.
To date, the Louisville, Colo.-based firm has raised $88 million in venture financing. It pulled in $38 million in a Series B round about two years ago and has "made a pretty significant amount of progress" since then, said Tim Rodell, GlobeImmune's CEO. "We now have two products in or about to start Phase II."
In oncology, GlobeImmune is advancing GI-4000, a compound aimed at treating cancers driven by Ras mutations. GI-4000, administered with adjuvant gemcitabine, is in a placebo-controlled Phase II trial in patients with Stage I and Stage II resectable pancreatic cancer. The company anticipates completing patient enrollment by the end of this year or early next year and hopes to report progression-free survival data near the end of 2008, Rodell said.
GlobeImmune's second product, GI-5005, is a Tarmogen-based therapy targeting hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. It recently completed a placebo-controlled Phase Ib study in chronic HCV patients who failed interferon therapy, and results showed that GI-5005 was able to convert a weak cellular immune response to strong cellular immune response.
"We also saw improvements in liver function and a reduction in viral load," Rodell told BioWorld Today. With those data in hand, the company is gearing up for a Phase II trial to test GI-5005 in combination with the standard of care - interferon and ribavirin - with early data expected in mid-2008.
"Our Series B money took us through Phase I and into Phase II," Rodell said, so the Series C round "should get us to primary Phase II data and possibly allow us to move another product into the clinic." GlobeImmune has preclinical programs in oncology, including other potential indications for GI-4000, as well as in infectious disease, such as an early stage influenza program, but the firm has not yet disclosed which will be the next to move forward.
All the compounds in its pipeline are developed from the company's Tarmogen-based platform. Tarmogens, or Targeted Molecular Immunogens, are whole recombinant yeast - specifically Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or baker's yeast - that have been genetically modified to express one or more protein antigens. Those antigens are designed to attack diseased cells by provoking a T-cell response in the immune system.
It's a platform that has "broad applicability," Rodell said, providing GlobeImmune with a deep pipeline of its own and potentially leading to collaborations with other companies or research institutions. The firm has tested Tarmogens "against 30 different targets, and we've yet to find one that doesn't" elicit an immune response.
GlobeImmune, which operates out of about 40,000 square feet of lab and office space, has a staff of 50 people, and the company handles all its own manufacturing and manages its own clinical trials.
Wexford Capital LLC, of Greenwich, Conn., led the Series C round, and Paul Mieyal, of Wexford, joined GlobeImmune's board.
Other new investors included: Summit, N.J.-based Celgene Inc; Ligonier, Pa.-based Mellon Family Investment Co.; Pittsburgh-based Richard King Mellon Foundation; Taipei, Taiwan-based venture firms Eminent Venture Capital and Boston Life Science Venture; and Seattle-based WRF Capital.
The Series C also included participation from a number of existing investors: Cambridge, Mass.-based Healthcare Ventures; Morgenthaler Ventures and Sequel Venture Partners, both of Boulder, Colo.; Indianapolis-based Lilly Ventures; Herzliya, Israel-based Medica Venture Partners; Chicago-based Adams Street Partners; Cambridge, Mass.-based Biogen Idec Inc.; Taipei-based Pac-Link Bioventures; China Investment and Development; Yasuda Enterprise Development, of Japan; Boston-based Partners Healthcare; and GC&H Investments, of Palo Alto, Calif.
In other financings news:
• Avicena Group Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., raised $3.1 million in an initial closing of its private offering of 3.1 million shares of Series C convertible preferred stock, which are convertible at $3.35 per share into 928,358 shares, and warrants. Proceeds are expected to support ongoing clinical development, regulatory submissions and potential commercialization of Avicena's lead programs in rare neurological disorders. The company also plans to use a portion of the funds to launch its Nurigene skin care line.
• Genelabs Technologies Inc., of Redwood City, Calif., is adding $23.7 million to its cash position to support its ongoing hepatitis C virus drug discovery programs and for general corporate purposes. The company obtained commitments from investors to purchase about 12.9 million shares of common stock and warrants to purchase about 2.6 million shares priced at $1.84 per unit - each unit consists of one share and a warrant to purchase 0.20 shares. The exercise price of the warrants will be $2.08 per share. Genelabs said proceeds will not be used to fund a new Phase III trial of its lupus drug Prestara. The company, which recently agreed with the FDA on a special protocol assessment for an additional pivotal study, has said it plans to seek a development partner to help offset further Prestara development costs. Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. acted as exclusive placement agent. Shares of Genelabs (NASDAQ:GNLB) closed at $1.83 Wednesday, unchanged.
• Senesco Technologies Inc., of New Brunswick, N.J., closed on $1.5 million of its previously announced private placement with YA Global Investments LP of an aggregate of up to $5 million, three-year secured convertible debentures with an 8 percent coupon. The next $1.5 million tranche is expected to occur upon the filing of a registration statement, with the balance subject to stockholder approval and the company's fulfillment of other covenants and milestones. Proceeds will be used to advance a certain cancer target, with the aim of initiating a Phase I trial. Funds also will support other human health and agricultural research and general corporate purposes. Senesco anticipates that the proceeds from the $5 million YA Global placement, along with the $5 million in proceeds from a Sept. 4 private placement with Stanford Venture Capital Holdings Inc., will be sufficient to complete the necessary steps for initiating a Phase I trial and funding other research projects and other expenses for about two years. Senesco's shares (AMEX:SNT) fell 1 cent Wednesday to close at 86 cents.
• Targanta Therapeutics Corp., of Cambridge, Mass., set the terms of its proposed initial public offering, with plans to sell about 5.8 million shares priced between $12 and $14 per share. At the mid-point price, the offering would bring the company net proceeds of $67.9 million, or $78.3 million if underwriters exercise their overallotment option in full. Targanta filed for an IPO in May, seeking a Nasdaq listing under the ticker "TARG," and funds to support the anticipated new drug application for its antibiotic oritavancin, as well as further clinical trials of oritavancin, repaying existing debt facilities and for general corporate purposes. (See BioWorld Today, May 15, 2007.)