BioWorld International Correspondent

Affectis Pharmaceuticals AG raised €12 million (US$15.1 million) in a Series C round to fund ongoing development of a proprietary drug discovery program in depression, and to in-license a clinical-stage drug candidate for the same indication.

The company, which was spun off from the Munich, Germany-based Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in 2003, is attempting to establish modulation of a novel target, P2X7, as a new therapeutic principle in depression.

Associations between the gene and depression were identified in a French-Canadian population and in a separate study of 1,000 German Caucasian patients suffering from recurrent depression.

"It is a calcium channel. It is mainly found in the hippocampus," Affectis CEO Herbert Stadler told BioWorld International.

The P2X7 gene product is thought to play a role in neuroprotection, in modulating inflammatory processes and in neurotransmission.

Other companies are developing antagonists to the same target for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, Stadler said. "We are developing agonists."

Munich-based Affectis aims to select a candidate drug by early 2007 and to commence a Phase I clinical trial by late 2007 or early 2008. "We would like to take it up to a successful Phase IIa trial and then look for a partner to develop it further," Stadler said.

The company already identified several early stage leads. "We know that it works in animal models [of depression], and so far, that's the best validation we have of the concept," Stadler said.

Affectis has now raised more than €22 million in funding and has enough cash to support its operations until early 2009. By then, it aims to have completed a Phase IIa trial of the compound it is in the process of licensing in and a Phase I trial of a P2X7 agonist.

The funding round was led by a new investor, Aescap Venture, of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The company's previous investors also participated. Aescap co-founder and general partner, Dinko Valerio, a former CEO of Leiden-based Crucell NV, has joined the Affectis board.

Affectis also named Michael Bös as its new vice president of research and development. He previously was director of chemistry at the Canadian arm of Ingelheim, Germany-based Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH.

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