BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Xention Discovery Ltd. raised £4 million (US$6.4 million) in its second-round funding to accelerate research in the discovery of drugs that act on ion channel targets.

Tim Brears, CEO of the Cambridge-based company, told BioWorld International, "Raising the money was a longer process than expected, but we have taken in a bit more than we wanted."

New investors include BTG International Ltd., of London; Quester, of London; Albany Ventures, of Edinburgh; and Enterprise Venture Capital Trust plc, advised by Noble Fund Managers Ltd., also of Edinburgh.

Xention was formed a year ago with £4 million from MVM Ltd., of London, around ion channel technology spun out from CeNeS Pharmaceuticals plc, of Cambridge. Xention paid £750,000 in shares and a loan note to acquire the technology, and also took on seven employees of CeNeS.

Brears said the new money will last two to three years. "It will enable us to do things faster, and to do more of them. Within the scope of this fund-raising we expect to significantly progress the whole discovery program."

The company has overcome existing limitations in ion channel drug discovery using AutoPatch, an automated technology for directly measuring currents across cell membranes, which it acquired from CeNeS.

Xention is working on a number of undisclosed targets in CNS and cardiovascular diseases. Its lead program centers on a collaboration with BioFocus plc, also of Cambridge, in which it is screening BioFocus' library of known ion channel modulators against an ion channel target for atrial fibrillation, the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia.

Brears said, "The intention is to partner before we incur significant clinical expenses, but we have not given out any information on the timelines."

CeNeS offered AutoPatch screening to external clients, but Brears said Xention had decided not to continue offering that service. "We can generate more value by using the technology ourselves in-house. We are really confident of the approach, and ion channels are an underexploited class of targets."