BioWorld International Correspondent

MUNICH, Germany - Two young Munich biotechnology companies - Nadag AG and Sireen AG - merged to form Sirenade Pharmaceuticals AG, which will focus on oncology and central nervous system conditions.

The new company got €11 million in new funding from the companies' existing investors and is seeking to raise about €20 million in additional capital.

Both companies are specialized in kinase research. Their similar medical interests, stage of development and future plans were key forces behind the merger, said Pierfausto Seneci, who is CEO of Nadag and who also will be CEO of Sirenade after the merger completes.

"Both companies were looking for financing and extending their horizons," Seneci told BioWorld International. "Both were looking for opportunities that made sense, and both were presenting to investors that we had in common. As soon as we were put together, [people] saw synergies."

Although they have common scientific interests, the firms had slightly different approaches.

"Nadag was mostly chemistry, that is where we are strongest," Seneci said. "The complementarity was that [Sireen] was mostly biology and structural biology, with a stronger interest in oncology. We saw this not as a discrepancy, but as an opportunity to explore the various areas where kinases are important. Scientifically, the two companies share other similarities, so it was easy to talk about common projects and where the central nervous system and oncology could overlap."

Sirenade will aim to capitalize on its current research and development, with four clinical projects in Phase I/II for Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and migraine, and three preclinical projects in Alzheimer's disease and oncology.

"Both companies had been strongly preclinical," Seneci said. "We had input from our investors to beef up the portfolio in downstream opportunities.

"There were two new opportunities from in-licensing on the Nadag side," he added. "But they were completed contingent on new investment coming in," as a result of the merger.

"We are in the process of hiring a chief medical officer and setting up a group to progress the compounds. There are two chemical entities in Phase I/II, with four clinical opportunities," he said.

The company's goal, Seneci said, is to be an international player in discovery and development. He plans to take the compounds to at least the end of Phase II trials, at which point it would look for a co-development partner.

Sirenade's new CEO laid out a strategic plan for the company's development over the next several months.

"We plan to complete the practical aspects of the merger first, which is much easier because both companies are based in Munich," he said. "We will be preparing a common business plan by early February. The span between June and September is our target for securing additional funding. We are optimistic about being able to fill this role. It is also very likely that two of our four programs will be out of Phase II by that time, and we also expect to have revenue coming in by that time."

In addition to the in-licensed compounds, an original Nadag project is intended for clinical trials in 2005. The projects in prostate and colon cancer from Sireen, Seneci said, have longer lead times. The targets are innovative, but "relatively validated." He added, "A lot of value is potentially there."