West Coast Editor

With enrollment finished in the Phase III trial testing its prostate cancer drug, GPC Biotech AG raised €36.2 million ($43M) in a private placement with a pair of German investment firms owned by the family of Dietmar Hopp, who founded the world’s largest business software concern, SAP AG.

Hopp has "done a bit of investing in biotech, and we knew some of the people he’s working with," said Laurie Doyle, Martinsried, Germany-based GPC’s associate director of investor relations and corporate communications. In January, Hopp’s firms agreed to invest as much as €22 million in the Tubingen, Germany-based cancer drug firm CureVac GmbH.

GPC, in its deal, sold 2.86 million newly issued shares at €12.67 each, representing 8.7 percent of the company’s outstanding stock.

"This gives us some additional flexibility as we’re moving forward with satraplatin," the oral, platinum-based chemotherapy, she said.

In December, GPC filed the chemistry, manufacturing and controls section of a rolling FDA submission for satraplatin, licensed from Spectrum Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Irvine, Calif., which is due up to $18 million in milestone payments as the drug makes progress. The Phase III trial began about two years ago, and GPC is first seeking approval of the compound as a second-line treatment for hormone-refractory disease. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 16, 2005.)

Also in December, GPC entered an agreement that would entitle it to even bigger milestone payments from Boulder, Colo.-based Pharmion Inc., which is handling sales in Europe, Turkey, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. The Pharmion pact is valued at up to $269.8 million. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 21, 2005.)

"We definitely want to take the lead with sales and marketing in the U.S.," Doyle said, though the company has not ruled out a co-promotion deal.

Chemotherapy sales are about $2.2 billion worldwide, and less-toxic satraplatin would be the first orally available, platinum-based chemo drug, if regulators on both sides of the pond accept data from the trial known as SPARC, which stands for "satraplatin and prednisone against refractory cancer." GPC has gained a special protocol assessment from the FDA related to the study, and European authorities also have expressed favor regarding its design.

SPARC, with 912 patients, is measuring the difference in progression-free survival between patients who get the drug with prednisone and those given prednisone and placebo. Patients are treated every day for five days, and the cycle is repeated every 35 days.

How long GPC can operate on available cash, Doyle said, "really depends on what we decide to do. Obviously, building a sales force takes some money." Work is under way to investigate satraplatin against other cancer types, too.

Founded in 1997, GPC has offices in Walton, Mass., and Princeton, N.J., and is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange as well as Nasdaq. The company’s shares (NASDAQ:GPCB) closed Friday at $17.00, up $1.39.

The advisor for the private placement is Dievini GmbH, of Frankfurt.

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