As it prepares to move three products into Phase II studies, MediciNova Inc. raised $44 million in a Series C round.

By next year, the San Diego-based company expects to have four products in clinical trials for anxiety, premature labor, asthma and cancer. The financing will last the company about two years.

"It really allows us to advance our clinical projects and continue to make acquisitions of new products," said Brian Anderson, executive vice president of corporate development.

MediciNova has in-licensed its entire pipeline. It plans to partner some of it once reaching Phase III studies. In June, the company received FDA approval to begin a Phase I safety study of MN-029 for cancer, which it recently initiated. It intends to start a Phase II study of MN-305, the generalized anxiety disorder product, by the end of this year, and it will start a Phase II study of MN-001 for asthma by early next year. A fourth product, MN-221 for premature labor, should move into a Phase II trial sometime in 2005.

"Our strategy would be to provide some clinical proof of concepts, generally a definitive Phase II trial, and then seek partners for some of these programs," including the anxiety and asthma products, Anderson told BioWorld Today.

In the field of urology and obstetrics/gynecology, the company plans to take products through the clinic and to the market alone. It intends to build a small sales force for MN-221 for premature labor, for MN-029 for solid tumors and for MN-001 in a second indication of interstitial cystitis, which is at the Phase II stage.

All of MediciNova's products are small molecules.

"So that's encouraging to us that they don't present any delivery problems," Anderson said. "All of them can be given by mouth, except for the cancer product, which is given intravenously. They represent novel approaches for treating these kinds of things."

Earlier this year, the company raised $29 million in a Series B financing. Since inception in September 2000, it has raised about $83 million. Essex Woodlands Health Ventures LLC, of The Woodlands, Texas, led the Series C financing, which included investments from Aqua Rimco, Biovision Life Science Fund, China Development Industrial Bank, Diamond Capital, Dr. Ci:Labo, Mizuho Securities, New Business Investment, NIF Ventures, Nippon Venture Capital, Posco Bioventures, SMBC Capital, The University of Tokyo Capital, J.F.E. Hottinger & Co., and other investors.

About 70 percent of the $44 million came from Japan, while the remaining 30 percent came from the U.S., Europe and other Asian countries, Anderson said.

MediciNova received its first $5 million equity investment in October 2000 from Osaka, Japan-based Tanabe Seiyaku Co. Ltd. The company acquired in July 2002 exclusive worldwide rights to a series of vascular-targeting agents for cancer treatment from Angiogene Pharmaceuticals Ltd., of Oxford, UK. MN-029 came out of that agreement, and Angiogene is entitled to milestone and royalty payments. MN-029 is a small-molecule vascular-targeting agent that selectively damages newly formed tumor blood vessels.

MediciNova gained exclusive worldwide rights outside of Japan to MN-221 in February from Tokyo-based Kissei Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. Kissei also is entitled to milestone and royalty payments for the product. MN-221 is a highly selective B2-adrenoreceptor agonist that produces minimal effects on heart rate compared to other less selective B2-agonists that have been used to treat premature labor.

In June, MediciNova obtained exclusive worldwide rights, except in Japan, China and Southeast Asia, to the 5-HT1A receptor agonist, MN-305, for anxiety, from Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Pharma Corp. MN-305 is a selective serotonin 5-HT1A agonist that resembles azapirones.

MN-001 was acquired from Tokyo-based Kyorin Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. The compound has shown that it affects many of the downstream mechanisms activated by mastcell degranulation. It blocks leukotriene receptors and inhibits phosphodiesterase IV.

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