BioWorld International Correspondent

Santhera Pharmaceuticals AG added another €7 million to its coffers through a second closing of the investment round that accompanied its formation in August. The second leg of the financing was led by NGN Capital, while Altana Innovationsfond GmbH, Heidelberg Innovation and an undisclosed private investor also participated.

Liestal, Switzerland-based Santhera, created through the merger of the German firm Graffinity Pharmaceuticals AG and Swiss company MyoContract AG, raised €7 million initially. Including funding raised by its two predecessor organizations, it has raised €27 million in total since the beginning of 2004.

"There is enough money for [the end of] 2006, beginning 2007. From there, we have to find out what happens," said senior vice president of business development, Matt Woker.

Santhera, Woker said, "has proved itself" as one of the few European biotechnology firms with the potential to develop into "a real commercially grounded" company. "We stand out. That clearly attracts attention," he said.

The company plans to use the cash to further its lead program, which is entering pivotal trials in an undisclosed neuromuscular indication in 2005, and its preclinical programs in cancer cachexia, diabetes and Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

Although the company is keeping details of its upcoming Phase III trial program under wraps, it plans to keep the project in-house through final clinical development and commercialization.

"We will carry that forward ourselves," Woker said. However, it is seeking partners for some of its preclinical projects - particularly in diabetes and cancer cachexia.

Although pharmaceutical firms generally are more interested in late-stage compounds, Woker said there are signs that they are beginning to focus on earlier-stage programs, as well.

"They really have fished empty many of the waters that are interesting to them," he said.

Santhera is keeping its DMD program, based on finding small-molecule inhibitors of the protease enzyme calpain, in-house at present.

"We're going to nominate a clinical candidate toward the end of 2005," Woker said. It recently optioned out a separate DMD project to Cambridge, Mass.-based Genzyme Corp. (See BioWorld International, Oct. 13, 2004.)

No Comments