BioWorld International Correspondent

Igeneon AG raised €26.7 million in a third-round venture financing and landed Burrill & Co., of San Francisco, as a co-lead investor.

Vienna, Austria-based Igeneon will use the capital to move forward with the company's three products - two cancer vaccines and a monoclonal antibody. The investment is Burrill's first stake in an integrated drug development company in Europe. Hans Loibner, Igeneon's CEO, told BioWorld International that investment from the U.S. sends an important signal about the company's plans in the world's largest pharmaceutical market.

"We understand our business as an international one, and the U.S. market is, as we all know, the most important in the world, so it is important for us to be known and to have a presence in the United States," Loibner said. "It's a little early to say exactly how cooperation [with Burrill] will influence the company's development, but I certainly expect that their connections and presence in the United States will help us to be more present."

Igeneon said it will use the proceeds to advance its lead products and to position the company for alliances with pharmaceutical companies. Igeneon's cancer vaccine, IGN101, is in three Phase III trials: adjuvant non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), metastatic colorectal cancer and adjuvant breast cancer. Two other cancer immunotherapy products - a humanized monoclonal antibody, IGN311, and another cancer vaccine, IGN301 - are in a Phase I trial in Europe and a Phase Ib trial in the U.S., respectively.

"In addition, we have a pipeline of well-advanced preclinical projects, two or three of which might enter the clinic within one year," Loibner said. "There are three further projects that are not as advanced. It's important to see that the company is more than just one compound - that it has a robust pipeline with a lot of innovation."

Igeneon, which was founded in 1999, focuses on ways to prevent or delay the development of metastases from epithelial carcinomas, which account for about 70 percent of all cancer cases. Igeneon's approach targets disseminated tumor cells that survive standard therapies and, often several years later, lead to the development and spread of metastases. The treatments that Igeneon are investigating would supplement existing cancer therapies.

"We can't say much about the progress of IGN101, as it is in double-blind placebo trials," Loibner said. "However, we expect another progress report on the research later this year, most probably right after the summer break."

While the fresh capital will help advance the company's programs, Loibner does not expect it to be enough to bring Igeneon's products to the market.

"Although it's certainly an ongoing process, it's not extremely likely that this funding alone would be sufficient," he said, adding that funding could come from "a deal with a pharma company to partner IGN101" or another product.

Igeneon also is considering the public markets, although the private round leaves Igeneon "not under any pressure," Loibner said. "With our portfolio and U.S. investors on board, we would be very well positioned in case it is possible to [go public] in Europe, but there is no urgent need to do it."

In addition to Burrill & Co., the investment round was co-led by 3i Group, Igeneon's long-term principal investor. Additional capital came from existing investors such as Deutsche Venture Capital and Novartis Venture Fund, as well as Austrian investors Capexit, Gamma Capital Partners and Horizonte. Invest AG, also of Austria, is a new investor. Igeneon has raised about €66 million in three rounds.