West Coast Editor
Elusys Therapeutics Inc. pulled in $11 million more in an extension of its Series D financing to raise a total of $23 million for the company's Heteropolymer (HP) Antibodies, an early stage technology that already has garnered a deal for Elusys with MedImmune Inc.
Made up of a monoclonal antibody specific to an immune receptor (CR1) that is chemically linked to a second, pathogen-binding antibody, the HP Antibody works by binding target pathogens to red blood cells so the pathogens can be destroyed by liver macrophages.
"We're trying to clear the pathogens and let the body destroy them," said Elizabeth Posillico, president and CEO of Pine Brook, N.J.-based Elusys. "It's a little different approach."
The body has "plenty of binding capacity for any known bacterial, viral or fungal infection," she added, and the HP Antibody method is considered especially important for patients with compromised immune systems, such as those with cancer and AIDS.
In April, Elusys made public its deal with Gaithersburg, Md.-based MedImmune to develop new therapeutics using the HP Antibodies. The companies are collaborating on undisclosed targets of interest to MedImmune, and the arrangement excludes Elusys' lead compound ETI-211 for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections.
An investigational new drug application is expected to be filed next year for ETI-211. (See BioWorld Today, April 21, 2006.)
"We're aware of some of the other companies that have tried antibody approaches," Posillico said, noting that ETI-211 "wouldn't necessarily be a stand-alone" therapy but could work with antibiotics. She said Elusys is in discussions regarding potential partnerships for the compound.
Behind EI-211, Elusys has an HIV drug.
"We've done some initial mouse studies, and we're set to initiate monkey studies in November," Posillico said.
Elusys, formerly known as Erythromed Inc., takes its name from a Greek word and is meant to suggest "elucidating" or "making clear," she said. The HP Antibody technology came originally from the University of Virginia.
"Over the past five years, we've expanded on that," investigating manufacturing methods while pushing the research along. Founded in 1998, the company began independent laboratory operations in 2000.
In June, the FDA granted orphan drug designation to Elusys' anthrax therapeutic, Anthim, also known as ETI-204. The monoclonal antibody targets the protective antigen component of anthrax, and in animal efficacy studies has shown protection against an anthrax spore challenge. Elusys last year got $5.4 million in government funding to develop the drug.
As part of the latest financing extension, MedImmune Ventures Inc. joined current investors including Essex Woodlands Health Ventures LLC, Crescendo Ventures and Invesco Private Capital.
"We can go at least 18 months with the cash we have," Posillico said. "We have some additional grant funding pending" with the anthrax program, and the company may seek grant money related to the HIV effort.