Raising $27.5 million in its Series A financing, 1-year-old Cellective Therapeutics plans to accelerate preclinical development of its lead antibodies.

The Durham, N.C.-based company, which focuses on a class of cells in the immune system called B cells, was founded in mid-2003 on technology licensed from Duke University and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. B cells are becoming more important as relevant targets for treatment in cancer and autoimmune diseases, such as B-cell lymphoma, Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

In addition to conducting the financing, the company named Arthur Mandell its new president and CEO. Mandell told BioWorld Today that the Series A round is sufficient to fund preclinical and early stage clinical trials of several candidates.

"I think the first thing I've got to do in using the proceeds is further strengthen the capability of the company. We're only a few people with a few consultants, and although we will remain as lean as possible, I'm beginning to build out the management team," Mandell said. "Secondly, I think our plan is to move our lead antibodies through preclinical development and through early stage manufacturing processes, and to design and implement human clinical trials for several candidates."

Mandell has 25 years of management experience and last served as president and CEO of Stemron Corp., of Rockville, Md. Before that, he was senior vice president and chief business officer of Human Genome Sciences Inc., of Rockville, Md.

"In order to be competitive in the therapeutic drug world, you need to be appropriately capitalized," Mandell said. "You need to be able to reach validation milestone points and to pursue several product leads in order to ensure your chances of success. It helps that our board and our investor base recognizes what it takes to be successful."

Intersouth Partners, of Durham, led the Series A financing. Other investors were San Francisco-based Alta Partners; Foster City, Calif.-based BA Venture Partners; San Diego-based Forward Ventures; South San Francisco-based Genentech Inc.; San Francisco-based Latterell Venture Partners; Gaithersburg, Md.-based MedImmune Ventures Inc.; and San Francisco-based Sofinnova Ventures.

Cellective's scientific founder, Tom Tedder, of Duke University, is a recognized world leader in B-cell technology. The company has several lead monoclonal antibody candidates in oncology and autoimmune diseases. It has the ability to identify therapeutic B-cell targets and to create, screen and develop monoclonal antibodies against those targets.

"We really can develop drugs that very selectively attack abnormal B cells without compromising other B cells or making the patient immunocompromised," Mandell said. "That's the essence of the uniqueness and the novelty of these inventions."

Mandell said the first antibody could move into the clinic within a few years. Cellective intends to take its products through proof of concept in the clinic and then decide whether or not to partner.

"Our idea is that we will generate a sufficient number of product opportunities where we might be able to form strategic partnerships for some products or some indications," Mandell said, "and then for other products consider moving these along ourselves more independently."

Aside from the $27.5 million Series A financing, Cellective received an undisclosed amount of funds through a seed financing late last year, as well as some grant money from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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