Sirna Therapeutics Inc. and The Immune Response Corp. both pulled in funding from private placements.

Boulder, Colo.-based Sirna, which is developing therapeutics based on RNA interference, on Friday entered definitive agreements with independent accredited institutional investors to sell at least $18 million worth of common shares. The offering is based on a per-share price of $3.25, a 12 percent discount over the prior day's closing bid. The company's stock (NASDAQ:RNAI) fell 37 cents to close at $3.32 on Friday.

"There are probably two reasons for doing this," Sirna President and CEO Howard Robin told BioWorld Today. "This will bring us up to almost three years worth of cash, which puts us in a very stable position, and it allows Sirna to expand its shareholder base and increases our float and liquidity."

For the quarter ended March 31, the company's holdings totaled $29.6 million in cash, cash equivalents and available-for-sale securities as of that date, and it had about 31.7 million shares outstanding. It reported a $5.9 million net loss in the preceding three-month period.

Sirna, which said it expects to close the transaction this week, will direct its latest funding into its programs to develop short interfering RNA (siRNA)-based drugs. Robin said that during the fourth quarter of this year, the company plans to file an investigational new drug application for siRNA-027 to treat macular degeneration. By the end of the year, he added that the company would select a clinical candidate for hepatitis C, and oncology research continues through a collaboration with Eli Lilly and Co., of Indianapolis.

"We're making great progress," Robin said. "We've now demonstrated - for the first time and only time any company has demonstrated - in vivo efficacy with siRNA delivered systemically."

Proceeds To Fund Development At Immune Response

Carlsbad, Calif.-based Immune Response raised about $12 million after entering agreements to sell stock and warrants to a group of unaffiliated institutional investors.

The offering involves about 6.9 million shares at $1.75 apiece, about a 13 percent discount to Thursday's closing price of $2.02. It also involves five-year warrants to purchase about 2.1 million additional shares at $2.75 each. On Friday, the company's stock (NASDAQ:IMNR) dropped 20.3 percent, falling 41 cents to close at $1.61.

New York-based Rodman & Renshaw Inc. is serving as the transaction's exclusive placement agent.

The company said it would use resulting proceeds for product development, including research related to Remune, IR103 and NeuroVax, as well as general corporate purposes.

Remune, its lead product candidate, is in Phase II trials in Spain and Italy to evaluate its use for HIV. A new Canadian-based study investigating the gp120-depleted HIV-1 immunogen's ability to delay rebound of plasma viremia during antiretroviral treatment interruption was reported early this year.

Deeper in the pipeline is IR103, which is an immune-based therapy comprised of a gp120-depleted HIV-1 immunogen and Amplivax, a second-generation immunostimulatory oligonucleotide adjuvant developed by Cambridge, Mass.-based Hybridon Inc. Preclinical data reported at last month's Keystone Symposium on HIV Vaccine Development showed that IR103 demonstrated HIV-1-specific immunogenicity, findings The Immune Response said justify continued development as a potential therapy for individuals living with HIV.

Outside of HIV drug development, the company recently reported that NeuroVax, its investigational T-cell receptor peptide vaccine, produced a peptide-specific immune response in 94 percent of multiple sclerosis patients treated in a Phase I/II trial. Results of the trial, which was discontinued early when an interim analysis revealed a high rate of response, were reported at last week's American Academy of Neurology meeting. A new study is under way to investigate NeuroVax's mechanisms of action and establish additional endpoints for therapeutic efficacy. It is partly funded by the Immune Tolerance Network, an international research consortium.

For the year ended Dec. 31, the company reported a $28.8 million net loss. It had $12.8 million in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities as of that date, as well as about 28.2 million shares outstanding.