BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Last week, shareholders in privately held Adprotech Ltd. agreed to be taken over by Inflazyme Pharmaceuticals Ltd. for about C$20 million (US$14.9 million) in shares.

The acquisition of Adprotech by Inflazyme, of Vancouver, British Columbia, brings aboard an anti-inflammatory platform based on complement inhibition, an associated drug targeting technology, a compound in Phase IIa trials in rheumatoid arthritis and cash of C$7 million.

It is not an immediate exit for the venture capital investors in Cambridge-based Adprotech: 3i plc, Alice Ventures, Prelude Trust and Alta Berkeley Associates. They agreed to lock up their shares for four months following completion of the deal later this month, after which they will be released on a percentage basis.

Inflazyme, which is quoted on the Toronto Stock Exchange, is issuing 12.7 million shares for all outstanding stock of Adprotech, giving Adprotech investors 12 percent of Inflazyme. Inflazyme's shares closed at C$1.59 April 6, the day before the acquisition was announced.

Ian McBeath, Inflazyme CEO, told a teleconference the deal would "enhance and differentiate our position in inflammation."

Adprotech (which stands for Adaptive Protein Technologies) was spun out of SmithKline Beecham plc (now GlaxoSmithKline plc) in 1997 by Janet Dewdney, previously vice president of SmithKline Beecham's biotechnology operations in Europe. It raised £5.4 million its first round, followed by £5.6 million in May 2000, and £13 million in the third round in December 2000. SmithKline Beecham did not follow on in the third round and retains a 3 percent holding.

The third-round funding was earmarked to expand staff numbers from 35 to 50, to get two products into clinical trials and to move to a larger facility.

At the time of the third round, Adprotech expressed an intention to go public by the end of 2001. That ambition fell foul of the downturn in the capital markets, and a year ago the company was forced to cut back, shelving a variety of projects and parting ways with CEO Geoff Race. Race subsequently became CEO of CareX SA, of Strasbourg, France.

Adprotech has a staff of 18 and a number of active and inactive programs, led by APT070, a truncated, recombinant form of human complement receptor-1, further modified with Adprotech's Prodaptin targeting technology to deliver it to the cell surface, the site of the inflammatory complement cascade.

The Phase IIa study under way in 45 rheumatoid arthritis patients is an exploratory study. APT070 is being injected directly into the knee joints of patients experiencing a disease flare, with a primary endpoint of pain alleviation. Dosing has finished in two of the three arms and the trial is due to complete before the end of 2004.

Complement inhibition is applicable to chronic and acute inflammation in a number of disease areas. Adprotech has carried out research in immune rejection of transplants in which APT070 has European orphan drug designation for the prevention of graft dysfunction in kidney transplants, but that program is not active.

Adprotech also has patent protection for its drug targeting technology, Prodaptin, and has completed preclinical proof-of-principle studies for a range of drugs that are active at the cell surface, including anti-thrombotics, antibodies and antibiotics. After delivering the drug to its target, Prodaptin puts down a "tail" to anchor the drug in place.

The intellectual property portfolio also includes a vaccines program based on an adjuvant technology platform, Immunodaptin. Adprotech's lead in the field, APT2268, aimed to use Immunodaptin linked to MSP1.19, an antigen found on the surface of the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum, to create a vaccine against malaria.

McBeath said he "firmly believed in Adprotech's science," and Adprotech's scientific founder and chief scientific officer Richard Smith will be joining Inflazyme as vice president for protein therapeutics.

Adprotech's current burn rate is C$400,000 per month. McBeath, who was CEO of BioVex Ltd., of Oxford, UK, before he joined Inflazyme in May 1998, said it will not be clear what investment Inflazyme will make in Adprotech's programs going forward until a portfolio review had been completed. Inflazyme had C$32 million in cash at the end of December.

Inflazyme's own specialty is small-molecule Leukocyte Selective Anti-inflammatory drugs. It has three programs in clinical trials, with IPL512,602 in a Phase IIa trial in asthma in collaboration with Aventis SA, of Strasbourg, France.