BioRexis Pharmaceutical Corp. attracted new and existing investors with its protein and peptide drug research, raising $30 million in an oversubscribed Series B round.

The company expects to use the funds to advance its pipeline through preclinical testing and into human trials.

"The financing is pretty significant and pretty exciting," said David King, CEO of King of Prussia, Pa.-based BioRexis. "We have a great investor base, and I think this will allow us to take a major, major, major step in the continuing development of our technology."

BioRexis focuses on three areas: peptides; the improved, longer half-life versions of existing biopharmaceuticals; and Trans-bodies. The company developed and owns its protein engineering technology that provides protein and peptide drugs with superior pharmacology, as well as its Trans-bodies to replace conventional monoclonal antibodies. The protein engineering technology involves the fusion of peptides and proteins to a modified version of the blood serum protein transferrin. That prolongs their circulatory half-life, improving efficacy, decreasing side effects and reducing dosage.

"We can produce those proteins in yeast at really a fraction of the cost of very expensive mammalian cell culture," King told BioWorld Today.

The protein and peptide drugs can be produced using Saccharomyces cerevisiae - baker's yeast. Due to poor pharmacokinetic profiles, protein and peptide drugs require high and frequent dosing. That often leads to side effects, reducing the therapeutic benefit and limiting the range of indications for which the drug can be used. The high dosing also drives up the cost of treatment.

BioRexis attempts to solve those problems by using a natural variant of transferrin as a carrier protein and as a scaffold. The company's lead product, a peptide fusion, is in preclinical trials for Type II diabetes. Other products being studied are a longer-acting interferon and an erythropoietin receptor agonist. At this point, the company has nothing in the clinic.

"Our goal is certainly to have an [investigational new drug application] pretty soon and be in the clinic by next year," King said.

BioRexis raised $8 million in its Series A financing completed in December 2002. King, Christopher Prior and Fred Kyle founded the company in July of that year. Prior is BioRexis' president, and Kyle is chairman. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 30, 2002.)

Since inception, BioRexis has raised $38 million and has grown to 29 employees. King declined to say how far the latest financing would carry the company, but did say BioRexis is in discussions with pharmaceutical companies discussing potential partnering opportunities.

"Our strategy in terms of particular products is really to put together a pipeline that would enable us to do early stage partnering for some of those products, while retaining ownership of certain products for ourselves," he said.

Prism Venture Partners, of Westwood, Mass., and Quaker BioVentures, of Philadelphia, led the Series B financing. New investors that participated were Johnson & Johnson Development Corp., of New Brunswick, N.J.; Gund Investment Corp., of Princeton, N.J.; and Anthem Capital, of Baltimore. Existing investors were San Diego-based ProQuest Investments and Greenwich, Conn.-based Tullis-Dickerson & Co. Inc.

In relation to the financing, Duane Mason, of Prism Venture Partners, joined the BioRexis board.

"This really was oversubscribed, and we had to cut back people," King said. "We could have closed on a bit more, so we were really thrilled."