West Coast Editor

With a drug in the works that gets asthma therapy into pediatric lungs 20 percent faster than existing methods, MAP Pharmaceuticals Inc. raised $30 million in a Series B preferred stock financing.

"We have two years' worth of cash now," said Thomas Armer, president and chief scientific officer of Mountain View, Calif.-based MAP. "It's enough to get us well into our pivotals [with the pediatric asthma drug]. Then we'll have to do another round."

Proceeds also will be used to boost clinical development of MAP's inhaled preclinical compound for migraine, as well as the Tempo Inhaler, a pressurized, metered-dose device. But the main push is for MAP's lead product, due to enter Phase II trials this fall: a novel, nebulized form of budesonide, the approved steroid for pediatric asthma.

"It can go into any of the broad range of nebulizers available on the market," Armer said, noting that the drug comes in a plastic twist-top container. "You break off the top and decant the fluid into the chamber of one of these misters."

Preclinical and Phase I data for MAP's unit dose budesonide show the drug was not only delivered faster but also consistently put about one-third more directly into the lung. Current therapies require children to sit still for administrations that last up to 20 minutes, twice daily.

MAP's product would compete against London-based AstraZeneca plc's Pulmicort, which Armer acknowledged "has done spectacularly well. I believe they're pushing $400 million annual sales, and there's nobody else in that space."

Pulmicort is approved for use in children as young as 3 months of age.

"We'll be going for the same," Armer said. "Our target population is really below the age of 4." About 85 percent of Pulmicort prescriptions are written for this age group, he said, adding that there's room for MAP's drug because only an estimated 25 percent of the population in need of such a product gets it.

"Steroids have always had a bit of a negative image in the U.S., but budesonide has been proven to be very safe," he said.

The Tempo device, adapted from aerospace research, boasts a synchronous trigger that detects the breathing rate of the user and adjusts itself accordingly. It's so precise that each drug used with it must win separate approval from the FDA, Armer said.

"With the anti-migraine compound we have [for use with Tempo], it could take to the end of 2007" before approval, he told BioWorld Today. "However, with other drugs that have prior toxicology data, it could be as short as three years."

The financing was co-led by Pequot Ventures, of New York; Bay City Capital, of San Francisco; and Skyline Ventures, of Palo Alto, Calif. Also a significant investor in the round was the Perseus-Soros Biopharmaceutical Fund, of New York, the founding investor in MAP.

Joining the board with the closing are Patrick Enright of Pequot, Carl Goldfischer of Bay City and John Freund of Skyline.

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