West Coast Editor

As London-based SR Pharma plc raises £8.3 million (US$14.5 million) in a placement with institutional investors, Introgen Therapeutics Inc. is making an equity investment of $3 million that will give Introgen 8.3 percent of the overseas firm's enlarged issued share capital so that the companies can work together.

Introgen's stock (NASDAQ:INGN) closed Thursday at $6.33, unchanged.

SR Pharma recently made news with its disclosed plan to buy out Berlin-based Atugen AG, considered Europe's leading firm in RNA interference, in a reverse takeover valued at about $10.8 million.

The Introgen investment will help move forward SR Pharma's small interfering RNA technology in the oncology area, including atuPLEX, acquired from Atugen, along with other products and technologies of strategic interest to both parties, and lets Introgen expand its presence in Europe.

Channing Burke, director of corporate communications for the Austin, Texas-based firm, told BioWorld Today that CEO David Nance was traveling Thursday and could not be reached. She referred questions to the company's press release.

Founded in 1992, SR Pharma is focused on cancer and inflammatory diseases, and has used its Mycobacterium vaccae-based technology to develop a number of candidates, including SRP299 for asthma and SRL172 for cancer and tuberculosis. The firm has isolated a novel molecule from M. vaccae that is potently active in a preclinical model of asthma. A synthetic version is code-named SRP312. SR Pharma also holds a portfolio of intellectual property on inositol phosphoglycans.

Introgen, for its part, made headlines late last year with the filing of a rolling biologics application for the gene therapy Advexin, based on findings from a Phase II trial with Advexin as monotherapy against a subpopulation of patients with recurrent, unresectable head and neck cancer, and two Phase III studies under way in the same indication. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 27, 2004.)

Advexin induces expression of the tumor suppressor p53 protein in cancer tissue to selectively kill cells. The drug combines the p53 gene with a non-replicating, non-integrating adenoviral gene-delivery system developed by Introgen, which is hoping for accelerated approval of Advexin.

In the financing deal, SR Pharma will issue a total of about 43.5 million new ordinary shares at 23 pence per share, resulting in an enlarged share capital comprising about 90.2 million ordinary shares of 1 pence. Mulier Capital Ltd., also of London, acted as financial adviser in the placement.

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