BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - Novexel SA closed a series B financing in which it raised €50 million (US$65 million) from an international group of venture capital funds.

The round was led by a new investor, Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners of Paris, and brought in three other newcomers as well as all of Novexel's existing investors.

The other new investors are the London office of Goldman Sachs, NeoMed Management, of Oslo, Norway, and NIF SMBC, of Tokyo. The existing shareholders that also participated in the funding round were Atlas Venture, of Paris; Sofinnova, of Paris; Abingworth Management, of London; 3i, of London; Novo A/S, of Copenhagen, Denmark; and Bioscience Investment Trust (BIT), a fund managed by Schroders Life Sciences.

Those firms provided Novexel with the bulk of the seed capital of €40 million with which it began in late 2004, when the company was founded as a spin-out from Aventis Pharma, a subsidiary of Paris-based Sanofi-Aventis. Sanofi-Aventis, which had a 20 percent shareholding in Novexel up to now, did not participate in the latest funding round. Atlas Venture remains the company's largest single shareholder.

Novexel, which is based at the Biocitech biotechnology science and business park in the Paris suburb of Romainville, said it is the largest private financing raised by a private European biotech company in the last 12 months. Novexel CEO Iain Buchanan said the company now had sufficient funding to take it to 2009.

Novexel is developing new anti-infective and antifungal drugs to treat hospital-acquired infections. It has four compounds in development, two of which are in Phase I clinical trials. The first is NXL103, an oral streptogramin that is being developed as an orally administered treatment for bacterial respiratory infections and has demonstrated potent in vitro activity against all the major respiratory pathogens, including resistant strains of penicillin, macrolide and quinolone.

The other candidate in Phase 1 trials is NXL201 (aminocandin), which is a member of the echinocandin class of antifungal compounds used to treat a broad range of systemic invasive infections. NXL201 is being developed as an injectable antifungal agent for use as a first-line treatment against fungal infections. Novexel secured worldwide rights to aminocandin under an agreement signed with Indevus Pharmaceuticals, Inc., of Lexington, Mass., in December.

Novexel also has two products in preclinical development. One is NXL101, a topoisomerase inhibitor, which is the first of a new class of antibacterials being developed to treat hospital infections with high morbidity and mortality rates. It has shown potent activity against Gram-positive bacteria including resistant strains of methicillin, quinolone, vancomycin and macrolide. The other is NXL104, a beta-lactamase inhibitor which, in combination with beta-lactam antiobiotics, has demonstrated the potential to treat drug-resistant, Gram-negative hospital infections.

In addition, Novexel is engaged in a fifth research program involving PBP (penicillin-binding protein) inhibitors. PBPs are a known family of antibacterial targets and the molecular point of intervention for beta-lactam antibiotics, and according to Novexel, those enzymes are responsible for the peptidoglycan cross-linked assembly of the bacterial cell wall. The company has identified a series of novel, non-beta-lactam compounds that inhibit PBPs and said the molecular targets offer the possibility of crafting compounds with a wide spectrum of activity against both Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacterial pathogens.