Spherics Inc. raised $26.4 million in its third financing round to advance into the clinic a pipeline developed using its oral drug delivery platform.

The Series C investment was led by Advent International, of Boston, and is expected to move products aimed at central nervous system diseases, gastrointestinal disorders and targeted and selected oncology indications through clinical development. It also will help establish the manufacturing capabilities necessary for commercialization.

"I'm very gratified to raise [this money] in such a difficult market," said Ze'ev Shaked, president and CEO of Lincoln, R.I.-based Spherics, which began operations in 2000 following a $4 million Series A round. To date, the company has raised about $40 million.

Tom Needham, a principal with Advent International, who was introduced to Spherics through Shaked before the company considered plans for a Series C round, said the investment was driven first by the people, namely Shaked and his team.

"Second was a differentiated enabling oral delivery platform with broad applicability," he told BioWorld Today, "and a strategy to rapidly move products into the clinic."

Spherics' technology is based on bioadhesive polymers that provoke an interaction between the delivery mechanism, epithelial cells and the body's mucosa, without relying on chemical reactions. That approach causes the drug to "stick to the mucosa," Shaked said, and be "retained in the gastrointestinal tract for a long period of time."

The technology platform includes bioadhesive, biocompatible and bioerodable polymer-based spheres for drug encapsulation, as well as bioadhesive enhancers and coatings and a Phase Inversion Nanoencapsulation process, which is designed to create tiny carriers for systemic drug absorption.

While working on its own therapeutic pipeline, with programs expected to be prioritized and prepared for the clinic late this year or early next year, Spherics also focuses on improving existing products. The company recently completed a proof-of-principle Phase I study using its delivery approach with the anti-infective drug itraconazole, and plans to partner that program, Shaked told BioWorld Today.

He said he expected the recent financing to sustain the company for more than two years, though "we're not just looking at those funds, but also [partnership] opportunities as well."

The company has 25 employees, though Shaked plans additional hiring to complete Spherics' management team.

The Series C round included new investors London-based MVM Life Sciences; St. Louis-based Oakwood Medical Investors; Research Triangle Park, N.C.-based AM Pappas; Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Corp.; and St. Louis-based Vectis Life Sciences Fund. Series A and B investors Zero Stage Capital, of Cambridge, Mass.; CB Health Ventures, of Boston; POD Holdings, also of Boston; and Eastman Ventures, the venture capital arm of Kingsport, Tenn.-based Eastman Chemical Co., also participated.

Jason Fisherman, of Advent International, and Stephen Reeders, of MVM, joined the company's board.

In other financing news:

• Anacor Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., which develops dermatology drugs and discovers products using boron chemistry, raised $25 million in Series C financing. Funds will be used to advance clinical development of Anacor's first two products through Phase II studies, and to move forward with other research programs. The financing was co-led by New York-based Venrock Associates and Princeton, N.J.-based Care Capital. Other new investors, Red Abbey Venture Partners, of Baltimore, and individuals associated with the company, joined existing investors San Francisco-based Aberdare Ventures and New York-based Rho Ventures.

• Assay Designs Inc., of Ann Arbor, Mich., said it recently received a $5 million Series A equity investment from Ampersand Ventures, of Wellesley, Mass. Funds will go toward the company's sales, marketing, research and manufacturing activities. Assay Designs develops and manufactures immunoassay kits, luminescent reagents, antibodies and proteins for the life science research market. In conjunction with the financing, David Parker and Herbert Hooper, of Ampersand, have joined the company's board.