Predix Pharmaceuticals Inc. raised $43 million in a third private financing round and expects to advance its clinical products for anxiety and Alzheimer's disease while focusing on additional drug discovery efforts.

"Our goal is to create a rather large clinical pipeline," said Michael Kauffman, president and CEO of the Woburn, Mass.-based company. Predix has two drugs in clinical trials and another slated to begin trials next quarter. "Our hope is to have at least one more drug in the clinic within a year or so."

The round of financing was led by San Diego-based Forward Ventures, San Francisco-based CMEA Ventures and Boston Millennia Partners, of Boston.

To date, Predix has raised a total of $68.6 million.

"We had $25.6 million before this [round], and that really funded the development of two clinical drugs and one drug that's about to go into the clinic," Kauffman said. He added that the company had a "pretty reasonable" burn rate, due mostly to its computer-based Predict discovery technology, which "helps us optimize compounds efficiently."

Kauffman estimated that about 80 percent of the $43 million will fund further clinical development and the remaining 20 percent will continue the company's high-throughput screening process.

"Our intention is to build this pipeline up to seven or eight products in the clinic at any given time, and to have a robust preclinical and early stage pipeline," he said. Funding should sustain the company for the next two years.

"We're also anticipating announcing one to two early drug discovery collaborations within the next year," he told BioWorld Today, though Predix is not looking to license out the Predict technology. "We will only partner in terms of discovery collaborations. The real value is the production of the drugs."

All of Predix's compounds were invented in-house, with computational work done in its facility in Ramat Gan, Israel. Kauffman said the discovery process involves computational input from the initial high-throughput screening process and models used to screen the company's virtual library, relying on that computational input to predict and limit the number of compounds that progress to the laboratory stage. The discovery platform focuses on G protein-coupled receptors and ion channel drug targets.

Predix has 35 employees, although the number likely will increase to 40 as the product pipeline grows during the next year.

Predix's most advanced product is PRX-00023, a serotonin 1A receptor agonist designed to treat anxiety and depression. The company completed three Phase I studies and expects to announce a Phase IIa study within the next month involving 20 anxiety patients, with or without depression, starting with 40-mg doses up to 80 mg during a four-week period.

"All that is in preparation for a Phase IIb/III study later this year, involving over 200 anxiety patients," Kauffman said. "We expect to have data from that study in mid- to late 2006."

"There's a growing belief that 1A is the most important receptor with respect to anxiety or depression," he said.

Predix's focus has been to create a well-tolerated drug that could be taken once a day, and have the effect of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor without the sexual dysfunction and gastrointestinal side effects, Kauffman said.

PRX-00023 trials are aimed at anxiety, but Predix also plans to measure endpoints for treating depression during the upcoming trials.

PRX-03140, a serotonin 4 agonist, is in the clinic for Alzheimer's disease. Kauffman said the company does not yet have data from the single-dose studies begun in December, but he was "very pleased with absorption and the half-life" of the product. Predix plans to begin a multidosing Phase Ib study next quarter, involving 14 days of treatment in healthy and elderly volunteers.

Next quarter, Predix also expects to begin Phase I trials for its 5H2B antagonist for pulmonary hypertension and other diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, interstitial lung disease and pulmonary fibrosis, Kauffman said.

The company will continue preclinical development efforts for arrhythmia, obesity, cancer and transplant products.

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