BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - Faust Pharmaceuticals, which is developing therapies for chronic neurodegenerative diseases, completed a second funding round in which it raised €16 million.

Faust's two original shareholders, Sofinnova Partners and Auriga Partners, both Paris-based, invested €4 million and €2.5 million, respectively, while the other €9.5 million was provided by four other Paris-based investors: Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners (€3 million), Siparex Ventures (€3 million), AGF Private Equity (€2.5 million) and FCJE, a public fund managed by FP Gestion (€1 million). Michèle Ollier, an investment associate of Edmond de Rothschild, joined Faust's board.

CEO Gregory Chapron told BioWorld International the company raised €4 million more than it was seeking, because the new investors wanted to acquire larger holdings than originally offered.

Faust was founded in October 2001 and completed an initial €3 million round in April 2002. Chapron says it now has funding to last until the end of 2006, adding that its investors were in favor of the company using extra funds to "look for opportunities of licensing in compounds."

Faust is focused on diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and multiple sclerosis. It is supported by a presynaptic discovery platform that measures the impact of drugs on neurodegenerative disorders. The company added a new dimension to its activities last December when it took over Euroclide, a small French firm specialized in the identification of new molecules targeted at G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs).

Following that acquisition, Faust said its screening platform for discovering molecules involved in the modulation of neurotransmitters was complete. Faust now has two drug discovery programs under way: One consists of identifying new neuroprotectants by screening known and unknown compounds for their effects on synaptic neurotransmitter concentration, while the second is focused on the development of new drugs modulating neurotransmitter presynaptic GPCRs.

The company plans to partner its drugs after the completion of Phase II development, and its first priority is to take its lead compound, FP0011, through Phase I and II trials. That drug acts by lowering the presynaptic release of glutamate, thus protecting neurons from neurotoxin-induced cell death. A Phase I trial in the indication of ALS started in January and is due to complete this summer, while a Phase II trial is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2005.

The second product in Faust's pipeline is FP7832, a neuroprotectant for Alzheimer's disease that is designed to increase acetylcholine levels and also is an antioxidant. It is in preclinical development, and Chapron said Faust plans to initiate a Phase I trial in the first quarter of 2005. He added that preclinical development of a third compound, FP1770, which has a similar mechanism of action as FP0011 and is being developed for Parkinson's, is scheduled to get under way in the second half of this year, with plans for clinical development starting at the end of 2005.

Faust's treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, FP0023, is ready for clinical development, but the company decided not to invest any more of its own money into the product. It is negotiating with the French Muscular Dystrophy Association for funding to continue development.