Washington Editor

Inhibitex Inc. said it will use proceeds from its $20 million Series E financing to fund development of Veronate and Aurexis, its two lead product candidates.

Founded in 1994 in Alpharetta, Ga., Inhibitex's drug programs are based on its proprietary MSCRAMM protein technology platform, which it uses to identify and create antibodies that can eliminate or reduce the severity of infections caused by pathogenic organisms. Both lead candidates were discovered in-house.

Since its inception, Inhibitex has raised about $85 million, including $41.4 million in a Series D closed in February 2002. Currently the company has about $30 million in cash with a burn rate of about $2 million per month. Russell Plumb, company chief financial officer, told BioWorld Today he expects the burn to increase as Veronate and Aurexis advance through the clinic.

The company in December completed a 512-patient Phase II trial of Veronate in the prevention of staphylococcal infection in pre-term, very low-birth-weight infants (weighing between 500 grams and 1,250 grams). The FDA designated Veronate as a fast-track product and has granted it orphan drug status.

Plumb said the company has not determined when it will release the Phase II data. From here, Inhibitex plans to meet with the agency to discuss protocol for a Phase III program.

At the present time, the company is considering partnerships for Veronate in Europe, but plans to manage the candidate on its own in the U.S. and Canada.

After Veronate, Inhibitex's second candidate, Aurexis, is poised to enter Phase II trials this quarter. Aurexis is a humanized monoclonal antibody being developed to treat hospitalized patients who have serious Staphylococcal aureus infections. Aurexis recognizes and binds to ClfA, a protein found on the surface of strains of S. aureus. Preclinical studies have shown that when used therapeutically in combination with antibiotics, Aurexis can reduce the severity of those infections, including those caused by antibiotic-resistant organisms, the company said.

The Series E is a private placement of convertible preferred stock to existing investors including New Enterprise Associates, of Baltimore; William Blair Capital Partners, of Chicago; Alliance Technology Ventures, of Atlanta; Burrill Biotechnology Capital LP, of San Francisco; Essex Woodlands Health Ventures, of The Woodlands, Texas; and Capital Technologies CDPQ Inc., of Montreal.