Norwegian therapeutics company Algeta ASA closed its Series A round, raising \23 million (US$29 million) to advance its lead product candidate in the treatment of bone metastases stemming from prostate cancer.

"This is our first international fund raising," said Thomas Ramdahl, CEO of Oslo-based Algeta, which previously brought in money from Norwegian investors. "We've raised about \31 million altogether."

The Series A included new investors Stockholm, Sweden-based HealthCap, London-based Advent Venture Partners and West Conshohocken, Pa.-based SR One Ltd. They joined existing investors Selvaag Venture Capital, NorgesInvestor and Marlin Verdi AS, all of Oslo.

"Most of the money will be aimed at the development of our lead product, Alpharadin," Ramdahl told BioWorld Today. The cash is expected to sustain the company for about three years, moving Alpharadin "through Phase II and maybe initially into Phase III."

Alpharadin, described as a bone-seeking radiopharmaceutical based on the alpha particle emitter radium-223, is in a 60-patient Phase II trial for skeletal metastases in prostate cancer. The product is designed to accumulate in bone metastases, where it kills tumor cells by local alpha irradiation.

"When cancer cells grow," Ramdahl said, the increased metastases "cause an increase in radium in cells," and that is what Alpharadin targets.

Algeta intends to first evaluate the product in prostate and breast cancer, which account for about 80 percent of the estimated 1.5 million patients worldwide suffering from bone metastases, though Ramdahl said the company also might evaluate Alpharadin in advanced lung cancer and renal cancer.

Following Alpharadin, the company's pipeline includes preclinical programs, all involving the use of alpha particle emitters in metastatic ovarian cancer and soft-tissue tumors, as well as a monoclonal antibody program.

Algeta, formed in 1997, spent its first years securing patents to its discovery and development platform, with much of the technology stemming from work completed by company founders Roy Larson and Oyvind Bruland in radiochemistry and radiation biology. That work led to the discovery of alpha emitters in therapeutic candidates, which, in early research work, demonstrated the ability to selectively target cancer cells with minimal toxicity to surrounding healthy tissue, Ramdahl said.

Results of a Phase I trial of Alpharadin showed that the drug could be administered repeatedly with a minimum of side effects. That safety profile, along with the drug's specificity in targeting cancer cells, could give it an edge over existing therapies, he added.

If approved, the product could have "a number of possible markets," Ramdahl said, depending on how many indications Alpharadin is able to treat. "Similar products have a range of market sizes," he added, naming Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis AG's Zometa, a bisphosphonate, as an example. He estimates that product "has a market of about $1 billion."

As Algeta moves closer to Phase III development and potential marketing of Alpharadin, the company likely will look to partner.

With 10 employees, "we're not a large company," Ramdahl said, though Algeta completes clinical trials and conducts most of its own discovery and development work, with the assistance of local academic institutions, such as the Norwegian Radium Hospital.

"We're also looking to strengthen our management team with the addition of a chief medical officer and a chief business officer," he added.

The company appointed three new members to its board in connection with the Series A round: Per Samuelsson, a partner at HealthCap; Patrick Lee, general partner at Advent; and Kent Gossett, principal at SR One.

London-based BioScience Managers Ltd. advised Algeta during the financing.