BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Lectus Therapeutics Ltd. raised £8.2 million (US$14.3 million) in a first round funding that the company claims is the largest seen in Europe since 2004. The money will support development of the company’s second-generation ion channel modulators, enabling it to take the lead product into the clinic within the next three years.

"It is very big for a first round - I think this is down to our combination of good technology, market need and strong technology," CEO Roland Kozlowski told BioWorld International. "This will position Lectus to lead a paradigm shift in ion channel drug discovery and development."

Lectus attracted the venture arms of two of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Japan - Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. in Osaka and Astellas Pharma Inc. in Tokyo - to invest in the round, which was led by Sofinnova Partners and Quester.

Astellas was formed in April through the merger of Fujisawa and Yamanouchi.

In March 2004, Takeda kick-started Lectus, putting £1 million in as a convertible loan just nine months after the company was spun out of Bristol University.

Attracting the backing of two Japanese pharma companies, "represents a tremendous endorsement of the company’s scientific and commercial strategy," Kozlowski said. "This will open up further business development opportunities in the Far East and will also help us in the West."

Lectus has developed a functional proteomics platform for the discovery of ion channel modulators called Leptics (Leveraged Enabling Proteomics Technology for Ion Channel Screening) - a high-throughput system, consisting of correctly folded functional ion channel accessory proteins, immobilized on a solid surface.

In addition to overcoming the traditional difficulties of handling and working with ion channels, Leptics is expected to enable the discovery of more selective, and therefore pharmacologically distinct, compounds.

Lectus’ in house programs are focused on angina, pain and urinary incontinence. "This funding round will enable us to take one compound to Phase I, with a backup program going into preclinical development," Kozlowski said. The lead program is likely to be the incontinence product.

Lectus aims also to use the Leptics platform to attract pharmaceutical partners. "I want to stress we are not a services company; Leptics is generating interest among pharma companies and we want to do deals around our compounds," Kozlowski said.

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