BioWorld International Correspondent

MUNICH, Germany - Vasopharm Biotech GmbH secured €9.7 million (US$11.8 million) in Series B financing to support clinical development of the company's treatment for closed head injury (CHI).

Vasopharm, of Wuerzburg, Germany, specializes in cerebral and cardiovascular diseases and conditions. At present, it is focusing on developing compounds that steer the bioavailability of nitric oxide, with research continuing on the mechanisms of the NO/cGMP pathway. The company's lead compound, VAS 203, is the first of what it said is a new class of nitric oxide inhibitors that target cerebral blood vessels and cerebral tissue.

A closed head injury is one in which the scalp and mucous membranes remain unbroken. The most familiar form of CHI is a concussion.

"We became involved with closed head injuries because we had the intellectual capacity in-house," Christian Wandersee, CEO of Vasopharm, told BioWorld International. "Earlier in the company's history, we worked a great deal with strokes, but we found much in the molecular modeling of our compound that suggested it would have an excellent structure for therapy of CHI.

"What's interesting about the compound is that we have a pharmacological approach that works on both the cerebral tissue and the surrounding blood vessels," he added. "We think that this is unique, in that it works with two triggers."

The company will begin Phase I testing of the compound in the third quarter, with completion expected in six to nine months.

"We have an elegant measurement criterion" to use in later studies, Wandersee said. "We have a physical parameter: intercranial pressure. The patient has an injury, and we measure the pressure. This is an elegant way to achieve proof of concept."

VAS 203 is designed to enable better circulation of blood following an injury, preventing pressure from blood inside the skull from building up and damaging brain tissue. The company plans to be able to reach its proof of concept with the present round of financing. "We would like to be able to reach that stage by the third or fourth quarter of 2008," Wandersee said.

He also noted that VAS 203 or a closely related compound could be useful for other indications. "We see pharmacological workings that make us think of things such as acute migraines," Wandersee said.

"On the other hand, because there are no animal models for migraines, it is a more difficult indication to research." He emphasized that the company's priorities are to finish up preclinical testing and successfully conclude the Phase I trial.

The new funding also gives Vasopharm room to consider its overall direction, with Wandersee saying the company was "open to both organic growth and to other options."

The investment round was led by EMBL Ventures, of Heidelberg, Germany. New investors in the round were Bayern Kapital, of Landshut, Germany, and Kreditanstalt fuer Wiederaufbau, of Frankfurt, Germany. Current investors from Amsterdam, Frankfurt and London committed fresh funds.