Hardly trumpeting its portfolio and development activities, privately held Vanda Pharmaceuticals Inc. closed a $37 million Series B round of financing.

The Rockville, Md.-based company said it would direct most of the funds toward its three clinical-stage product candidates, which are aimed at central nervous system disorders and other unnamed conditions. Executives at the company declined to disclose specifics about its compounds and their development to date.

"We have a number of clinical-stage assets," said Chip Clark, Vanda's chief business officer, "and the market seems to be moving toward companies that have those products."

Founded in March 2003, Vanda has raised $47 million in venture funding to date. Clark told BioWorld Today that the latest financing would support the company until the end of 2006.

"All the funding will be used for a combination of our clinical assets, with a majority of the funding going toward that, and also for developing and enhancing our discovery engine, which is based on genetics and genomics tools," said Vanda CEO Mihael Polymeropoulos. Before co-founding Vanda, he was the head of the pharmacogenetics department at Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. and previously worked on the Human Genome Project.

Polymeropoulos told BioWorld Today that Vanda has yet to publicly discuss products in its pipeline. However, earlier this year the company's name surfaced in a licensing deal with Novartis Pharma AG. A third party, Titan Pharmaceuticals Inc., outlined a deal in which Vanda gained worldwide rights to iloperidone, an antipsychotic agent in Phase III.

"We don't want to talk specifically about our products yet," Polymeropoulos said. "I think the time will come as soon as we have our first clinical results."

South San Francisco-based Titan previously had licensed such rights to Novartis. But Titan then reported that the Basel, Switzerland-based pharmaceutical giant had transferred its iloperidone rights to Vanda. At that time, Titan noted that its rights and economic interests in iloperidone, which had been in development for the treatment of schizophrenia and related disorders, would remain unchanged. Titan also said terms of the deal called for Vanda to complete the product's development and said Vanda would be responsible for its eventual registration. (See BioWorld Today, June 10, 2004.)

Vanda's executives did not address the iloperidone arrangement, though Clark acknowledged the company's initial focus on central nervous system disorders. He noted that such a focus reflects its compounds' potential efficacy, but added that the company also would explore opportunities in other areas as revealed by its technology.

"For compounds that are druggable, it's very unlikely that they only have one indication," Polymeropoulos said. "We use our genomics tools to identify the what' - what could these compounds be good for? The other concept is the who' - we know that not all drugs work in all people and all populations intended, and therefore genetic markers could potentially identify the population with the best efficacy and best adverse effect profile for a given drug."

Vanda's operations came together as a venture partnership between Care Capital LLC and Bio*One Capital. Polymeropoulos said the 23-employee company was conceived to develop clinical programs based on the use of its genetic and genomic tools.

"We are aiming for a fully integrated pharmaceutical company model," he added. "We do plan, at some level, to commercialize our products, as well."

Second-round investors included Domain Associates, of Princeton, N.J.; Prospect Venture Partners, of Palo Alto, Calif.; Rho Ventures, of New York; and MedImmune Ventures Inc., a subsidiary of Gaithersburg, Md.-based MedImmune Inc. In conjunction with the financing, Domain's Brian Halak, Prospect's Jim Tananbaum and MedImmune's Wayne Hockmeyer joined Vanda's board.

Also participating were its founding investors, Care Capital in Princeton, N.J., and Bio*One, of Singapore's Economic Development Board Investments Pte. Ltd.

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