BioWorld International Correspondent

TopoTarget A/S raised €15 million (US$19.7 million) in a Series C funding round that the company expects is sufficient to take it to sustained profitability.

"It's giving the company some more runway - enough runway to launch our first product," CEO Peter Buhl Jensen said.

The Copenhagen, Denmark-based firm, which has raised €33.5 million since its foundation in 2001, is lining up its lead drug candidate for a market launch in 2006, and it has six other programs in clinical development.

Its lead development compound, Savene, is nearing completion of a confirmatory Phase II/III trial for topical treatment of extravasation following intravenous administration of anthracycline to cancer patients. The product, a DNA topoisomerase II inhibitor, has received orphan drug designation in Europe and the U.S. Although extravasation is a rare occurrence, there is, Jensen said, no single globally accepted treatment for the problem. At present, treatment strategies include plastic surgery or flushing the site of injury with sodium chloride or dimethyl sulfoxide.

Launching the product will not require major resources, Jensen said. "In Europe we plan to have our own sales force. This is a niche product for hospital oncologists, and we believe we can cover that market ourselves. In the U.S. we're looking for a partner."

Existing shareholders BankInvest and HealthCap participated in the funding round. They were joined by Deutsche Venture Capital, an investor new to TopoTarget but one that previously had funded G2M Cancer Drugs AG, the Frankfurt, Germany-based oncology firm TopoTarget acquired earlier this month in an all-share deal.

"The added burn rate from the G2M acquisition is about €2 million annually," Jensen said. The acquisition also added three development programs to TopoTarget's pipeline, two of which are based on differing formulations of a histone deacetylase inhibitor, part of an emerging drug class that is a key strategic focus for the Danish firm. It previously has partnered an in-house compound in that category, PXD101, with CuraGen Corp., of New Haven, Conn. It recently entered a Phase II clinical trial in advanced multiple myeloma.

The third G2M program represents TopoTarget's first foray into antibody-based therapeutics. That compound, Zemab, comprises a monoclonal antibody targeting the Her-2 antigen conjugated to a peptide toxin derived from Pseudomonas bacteria. Pilot studies indicated that it has potential to treat head or neck cancers that do not respond to other therapies, Jensen said.