BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - Neuro3d closed a third round of financing in which it raised €31.5 million (US$41.6 million) from eight European venture capital funds.

The funding was led by the biotechnology fund of Gilde Investment Management in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and was co-led by AXA Private Equity, of Paris, both first-time investors in Neuro3d.

There were two other new investors: Healthcare Private Equity LP, a fund managed by Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, the asset management arm of Lloyds TSB Group plc, of London; and GIMV, of Antwerp, Belgium.

The other four were all existing shareholders: HealthCap, of Stockholm, Sweden; Techno Venture Management Partners, of Munich, Germany; and the Paris-based funds Sofinnova Partners and Apax Partners.

The financing brings to €55.2 million the total that Neuro3d, of Mulhouse, has raised since it was founded in late 2000. Lubor Gaal, head of business development and licensing, told BioWorld International that figure does not include the €10-million line of credit Neuro3d arranged in July 2003 for in-licensing a compound that it decided in the end not to acquire.

Commenting on the latest round, the company's CEO, Charles Woler, said it was "one of the largest private biotech financings in Europe in 2004."

Neuro3d focuses on drugs with novel mechanisms of action for central nervous system diseases and is centered on three CNS disorders: schizophrenia, depression and anxiety. It said it will use the new funds to continue the clinical development of its three leading drug candidates and move follow-up compounds into the clinic.

Its lead compound is the atypical antipsychotic ocaperidone, which is nearing the end of Phase II trials for the treatment of schizophrenia. Neuro3d licensed ocaperidone from Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, of New Brunswick, N.J., under an agreement signed in March 2002. Janssen has an option to reacquire exclusive worldwide rights to the drug upon completion of the Phase II trials.

Gaal said the second of two international Phase II studies would be completed this month and that the results would be known in March or April. If Janssen decides not to take ocaperidone back, Neuro3d would have the possibility of licensing it out to another pharmaceutical company or continuing development of the compound itself.

Neuro3d has two other drugs in clinical development, both for the treatment of depression and/or anxiety. A Phase I trial of ND1251, an orally active phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitor, started last May with the aim of testing its potential for alleviating the symptoms of depression, and Gaal said the results would be available at the end of the second quarter. The compound might have applications both within its targeted therapeutic fields and in others, for which the company said it would license it out to third parties.

A Phase I trial of a second compound being developed for the treatment of depression and anxiety is getting under way now.

Gaal added that during the course of 2005, Neuro3d would select one or two more candidates to take into clinical development from a number of follow-up compounds in preclinical development for depression and anxiety.

Neuro3d conducts its preclinical research and development in-house as a result of its acquisition in May 2003 of the Strasbourg-based contract research organization, Neurofit, which specialized in in vitro/in vivo preclinical pharmacological studies of therapeutics for CNS and peripheral nervous system disorders. Moreover, Neurofit continues to provide services to third parties, generating revenues that could exceed €1 million a year.