Momenta Pharmaceuticals Inc. padded its balance sheet after placing $20.5 million worth of Series C equity, less than a year after raising its second round of financing.

The Cambridge, Mass.-based company, which is applying the chemistry and biology of complex sugars to drug development, has raised more than $45.5 million since its founding in 2001. Its technology allows for structural chemical understanding of sugars. Just 10 months ago, Momenta raised $19 million. (See BioWorld Today, May 23, 2003.)

The company, whose representatives were unavailable for comment, said in a press release that it plans to use the latest proceeds to accelerate its commercial and research initiatives, and to expand its scientific team.

Privately held Momenta's drug development programs involve its knowledge of sugars applied to three areas - cardiovascular diseases, cancer and the improvement of therapeutic proteins.

Its lead preclinical candidate, a derivative of heparin, is being developed as an anticoagulant with improved pharmaceutical properties. It is scheduled to enter clinical trials later this year, and Momenta said it is exploring other potential therapeutic applications of other chemical structures found in heparin.

For cancer, the company is exploring the use of complex polysaccharides to treat and diagnose cancer. Momenta also is using its technology to improve protein therapeutics by characterizing and modifying the sugars found on the surface of 80 percent of marketed proteins, and through sugar-mediated noninvasive delivery.

The company also is using its sugar-related technological capabilities as part of a product development and commercialization partnership with Sandoz Inc. A unit of Novartis AG, Princeton, N.J.-based Sandoz is paying development and commercialization costs and will make certain other undisclosed payments to Momenta, which will receive a profit share on resulting products.

The financing includes a single new investor, Mithra Ventures, and also includes Atlas Venture, of Boston; MVM Life Science Partners, of London; Cardinal Partners, of Princeton, N.J.; and Polaris Venture Partners, of Waltham, Mass.