West Coast Editor
Affymax Inc. raised $60 million in a Series D financing to push along its Phase II candidate Hematide for anemia, which is expected to be studied in four separate trials by late fall.
"I would say the majority of [the money] is going for Hematide, but now we have a little more to spend on the pipeline," said Arlene Morris, president and CEO of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Affymax, adding that the firm now has enough cash to last "well over two years."
Hematide, which Morris called "the key value driver" in the near term for Affymax, is a synthetic, peptide-based erythropoiesis-stimulating agent for patients with kidney disease and cancer.
A Phase IIa pilot trial in pre-dialysis kidney patients started in February, and a Phase II trial in dialysis patients began a few weeks ago. At the end of the summer, the first multinational Phase II trial in pre-dialysis patients will begin, with a Phase IIa cancer study launching in the early fall.
"The first [cancer] trial will be all comers, and then we'll do a Phase IIb, where we separate them by cancer types," Morris said.
The company is in "late and very active discussions" for a partner in Japan, and has been approached by others for deals in territories outside Japan.
"We had initially talked about waiting [to partner] until we had Phase II data," Morris told BioWorld Today, but getting a deal earlier would let Affymax "more aggressively transition into Phase III, so we don't have a lapse of time."
What's immediately behind Hematide in the pipeline is difficult to say now, since "there are a couple of things we're working on that are at similar stages of development," she said.
"We're working on a small peptide targeting the G-CSF receptor called Gematide, and a nasal form of Hematide," Morris said, along with "other forms of Hematide, not exactly the same molecule, for tissue protection." There also is a supportive-care product against the KGF receptor. With Rockville, Md.-based EntreMed Inc., Affymax has a tissue factor pathway inhibitor program. All are in the early stage of research. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 27, 2004.)
The Series D financing was co-led by new investor Jafco Co. Ltd., of Palo Alto, Calif., and existing investor Bear Stearns Health Innoventures, of New York. Also participating were new investors, including Bessemer Venture Partners, of Wellesley, Mass.; Merlin BioMed Group, of New York; and Diamond Capital Co., of Tokyo. Existing investors participating were Apax Partners, of London; MPM Capital, of New York; and the Sprout Group, also of New York.
Affymax said Hironori Hozoji, investment officer with Jafco Life Science Investment, has joined Affymax's board. Montgomery & Co. LLC, located in San Francisco, served as placement agent.