Corus Pharma Inc. raised $60 million in its third round of private financing, among the largest recorded by a biotech company this year.
"For Corus, there was a good reception because of the amount of work that we've done over the past two years with our two clinical candidates," Guy Seaton, Corus' chief financial officer, told BioWorld Today. "I think venture investors remember that there is a significant amount of risk in investing in early stage companies, so if you're a late-stage company with product candidates [for which] people can understand a route for approval, I think the reception is likely to be quite good."
He said the finances could last between 18 months and 24 months. The Seattle-based company, which has raised about $118.5 million to date, plans to apply the latest funding toward product development.
Its most advanced programs include a pair of inhaled products in Phase II trials - Corus 1020 (aztreonam) for pseudomonal infections in patients with cystic fibrosis, and Corus 1030 (lidocaine) for oral corticosteriod-dependent asthma. Both employ a nebulizer delivery system designed to provide a uniform spray.
At present, the antibiotic aztreonam is used in hospitals intravenously for patients with exacerbation of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which causes cystic fibrosis lung infections. Corus 1020 is designed to simplify such therapy by making it an outpatient treatment.
Seaton said the multisite Phase II study of the product is more than halfway to its expected enrollment of about 140 patients.
"We would anticipate completing enrollment this quarter," he said, "finishing the trial early in the third quarter and be in a position to start Phase III in the fourth quarter."
The company's other clinical-stage product is nearing full patient enrollment, as well.
Licensed from the Mayo Clinic, Corus 1030 is designed for an improved delivery over the method originally developed by researchers at the Rochester, Minn.-based hospital. Their delivery system proved inefficient, resulting in too much product deposition in the back of the throat. The nebulizer used by the Corus products, which is licensed from Starnberg, Germany-based Pari GmbH, is designed for more efficient and quicker delivery.
With enrollment expected to conclude late this quarter in the 95-patient study, Seaton said the trial would be completed late in the fourth quarter, followed by results some time in the first quarter of next year.
In addition to advancing both Phase II programs, Corus also plans to use funds for eventual Phase III studies of the products and for furthering its research and development pipeline. Earlier-stage programs include follow-on lidocaine products with further development hinging on forthcoming data related to Corus 1030, Seaton said, as well as another compound in preclinical testing for an undisclosed respiratory condition.
Bear Stearns Health Innoventures led the financing, and added Fritz Buhler to Corus' board in the process. He is a managing partner at the New York-based firm.
Other new investors included Hambrecht & Quist Capital Management, of San Francisco; AIG Sun America Ventures, of Los Angeles; MPM BioEquities, of Boston; the Carnegie Group, of Stockholm; and Kirby Cramer, Corus' chairman. Existing investors included JP Morgan Partners, of New York; Novo A/S, of Bagsvaerd, Denmark; RBC Capital, of Toronto; Burrill & Co., of San Francisco; OrbiMed Advisors, of New York; MDS Capital, of Toronto; Cascade Investment, of Kirkland, Wash.; Anthem Ventures, of Santa Monica, Calif.; Pacific Rim Ventures, of Denver; Washington Research Foundation, of Seattle; Integra Ventures, also of Seattle; and WestRiver Capital, of Seattle as well.
Montgomery & Co. LLC, a California-based investment bank, served as Corus' exclusive placement agent.
Just more than a year ago, Corus raised $40 million in its Series B round. The company raised $18.5 million in its first financing round in the summer of 2001, about five months after its inception. (See BioWorld Today, June 7, 2001, and March 10, 2003.)