BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Arakis Ltd. raised £29 million (US$52 million) in its third funding round, providing enough money to take the company to 2007 and allowing it to start U.S. and European Phase III trials of AD 923 in cancer breakthrough pain.

Ken Cunningham, Arakis CEO, told BioWorld International: "It is absolutely tremendous news. We have late-stage products in the portfolio, and, frankly, when you have got to late-stage trials it does make life a lot easier."

Cunningham added that at one point the round was oversubscribed, and ultimately it had to be limited.

"I'm not saying these things are ever easy - it takes time," he said. "But we are pleased with the valuation and it worked well for us. We are now set to move forward."

That will involve setting up Phase III trials of AD 923 by the second quarter of 2005. "Obviously these will be expensive and we might mitigate that with a licensing deal in the U.S., but the trials will not have to be that big - probably several hundred subjects as opposed to the several thousand, which some Phase III programs require."

Arakis brought AD 923, a sublingual formulation of fentanyl, into its portfolio in March when it acquired Sirus Pharmaceuticals Ltd. in an all-share deal that included an associated sublingual drug delivery platform.

Saffron Waldon, UK-based Arakis also is nearing the completion of recruitment in a 96-patient Phase IIa trial of AD 452 in rheumatoid arthritis. Cunningham said results are expected by the end of 2004, and the company then will plan a Phase IIb trial involving about 250 patients.

A third product in Phase II, AD 2237, in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is being co-developed with Vectura Ltd., of Bath, and has completed Phase IIa in 45 patients. Arakis plans to partner that drug after Phase IIb. In addition, Arakis is planning to start Phase I trials in AD 337 in cancer emesis in the fourth quarter.

Arakis was founded in 2000 by former executives of Chiroscience plc to develop performance-enhanced medicines to find new clinical uses for known drugs, or known drug templates, and then optimizes them through chemical modification, such as selecting the optimal isomer, or changing the pharmacokinetic or pharmacodynamic properties. It raised £4 million in its first round in August 2000, and £16 million in the second in April 2002.

Cunningham said things are going well enough for Arakis to have "to do some portfolio management, because we have been moving forward without the attrition [rate] that we might have expected."

Arakis' burn rate will go up gradually as its products move into later-stage trials, and the company will aim to do an initial public offering sometime before the end of 2006, he said, adding that "it is difficult to be certain of the timing because of the economic backdrop."

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