The not quite 2-year-old TargeGen Inc. successfully raised $30 million in its second financing round, giving it the muscle to advance two lead drugs.
"This is a pretty substantial round of financing, obviously, at the $30 million level," said Peter Ulrich, co-founder, president and CEO of San Diego-based TargeGen. "What this basically enables us to do is it gives us the resources to put two drug leads in clinical trials, one for a cardiovascular indication and one for a cancer indication."
The company raised $10 million in its Series A financing completed April 2002, about the time the company was founded by Ulrich and scientist David Cheresh, who is chairman of the company's scientific advisory board. The company's technology platform is partly based on work completed by Cheresh. TargeGen is the result of venture capital firm Forward Ventures' entrepreneur-in-resident program. (See BioWorld Today, April 4, 2002.)
The second financing round was co-led by new investors William Blair Capital Partners, of Chicago, and CDP Capital Technology Ventures, of Montreal. Existing investors again participating included Forward Ventures, of San Diego; Enterprise Partners, of La Jolla, Calif.; and China Development Industrial Bank, of Taipei, Taiwan.
As part of the financing agreement, TargeGen appointed Arda Minocherhomjee, of William Blair Capital, and Richard Meadows, of CDP Capital, to the board.
Ulrich told BioWorld Today that the financing should take the company through two years of clinical testing. He expects the company will move one compound into a Phase I/II study in the third quarter for acute myocardial infarction. The other lead compound for a solid tumor cancer indication will move into the clinic sometime next year, following a mid-2005 filing of an investigational new drug application.
"The company is unique in that we basically work in two areas," Ulrich said. "One of those is vascular permeability, and the other is vascular proliferation." The company is interesting to investors, he said, because it uses vascular biology combined with small-molecule medicinal chemistry, "and we primarily target the signaling kinases in the VEGF and bFGF pathways."
TargeGen aims to develop small-molecule drugs that suppress disease-related vascular permeability and vascular proliferation associated with ischemic diseases and cancer. Vascular leakage also is associated with eye disease, arthritis, transplant ischemia, edema and other problems. The company believes that its drug candidates suppress vascular leakage by inhibiting kinase pathways triggered when vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is elevated in response to an ischemic event.
The company started in 2002 with two employees. It now has 32 and will grow to 52 employees before the end of the year, Ulrich said.
Aside from its two lead drugs, company researchers are studying various early stage drug candidates.
"We have several development programs that target signaling kinases that might be useful for eye disease [macular degeneration] and inflammatory disease, such as arthritis," Ulrich said.