MacroGenics Inc. raised $30.5 million in its Series B financing to support the development of products for antibody-mediated autoimmune diseases and cancer, as well as recently in-licensed opportunities in infectious diseases.

"Investors are trying to discriminate and identify companies that have the wherewithal to move candidates forward into the clinic quickly and get to a comfort level where they show biological activity and proof of principle to support a company's development," MacroGenics President and CEO Scott Koenig told BioWorld Today. "I think that was what attracted our investors - that we've identified targets and clinical opportunities where early in the development of our candidates, we've been able to get a good feel for the safety and biological activity of our compounds."

To date, the Rockville, Md.-based company has raised $61.7 million in venture-backed financing. Koenig said the latest cash infusion would last two years.

Since its inception four years ago, MacroGenics has worked to develop technologies related to the biology of Fc receptors expressed by various immune cells and the Fc region of the antibody molecule. Koenig said Fc receptors are important for amplifying the activity of antibodies.

Two product candidates to emerge from its initial discovery efforts are part of a year-old agreement with Genzyme Corp., of Cambridge, Mass. The first of the molecules is expected to enter clinical testing early next year; both are being developed for antibody-mediated autoimmune diseases.

"This is a 50/50 relationship, with co-development, co-funding and profit sharing at the end," Koenig said. "We are very active in the development of the products, both from a strategic decision-making standpoint as well as the actual work that's being done."

Terms of that relationship also called for Genzyme to make a $5 million equity investment in MacroGenics. Genzyme has sole responsibility for manufacturing and commercializing products that rise from the deal, with MacroGenics keeping certain co-promotion rights in the U.S.

Other near-term clinical trial plans are centered on a recently in-licensed attenuated vaccine to prevent West Nile virus infections. The product was acquired from the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Initial Phase I studies, planned to begin later this year, will be sponsored by the government, after which MacroGenics will be responsible for manufacturing and further clinical development.

Also in MacroGenics' portfolio are two therapeutic antibodies, one to treat patients with diseases caused by West Nile virus and the other to treat individuals with lymphoma. They are completing preclinical development and are expected to enter clinical testing by early 2006.

Two years ago the company bought Eliance Biotechnology Inc. in Dallas. Its research site there is focused on antigen discovery for various vaccines, which Koenig said has identified targets that remain under investigation. (See BioWorld Today, June 7, 2002.)

At a research site in Seattle, where MacroGenics subleases space at the Institute for Systems Biology, the company worked to develop tools of proteomics and genomics to identify new cancer targets. Koenig noted that work at the site, which initially focused on 20 to 30 targets, now is aimed at validating six or seven targets.

MacroGenics' variety of opportunities led its investors to the well.

The financing was led by Alta Partners and TPG Ventures, both of San Francisco. In conjunction with the investment, Alta's Ed Hurwitz and TPG's Geoffrey Duyk joined MacroGenics' board.

Other new participants include Mithra Group, of Boston; Red Abbey Venture Partners, of Baltimore; and Emerging Technology Partners LLC, also of Rockville. Existing shareholders who also invested were InterWest Partners, of Menlo Park, Calif.; MPM Capital, of Cambridge, Mass.; OrbiMed Advisors LLC, of New York; Cogene BioTech Ventures, of Houston; Vivo Ventures, of Palo Alto, Calif.; and Hunt Ventures LP, of Dallas.

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