Rinat Neuroscience Corp. returned to the private financing well and brought in $40 million through a Series B round that will fund drug development for the next several years.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company said it would use the money to move its two lead antibody candidates into clinical testing next year, while advancing other preclinical programs as well.

"I think [the financing resulted from] a combination of our Genentech heritage, having a portfolio of products with two heading into the clinic next year, the commercial attractiveness of those products and an experienced management team," Rinat CEO Ronald Eastman told BioWorld Today. "To have been able to raise a significant amount of money from a great syndicate of investors speaks very well for the company and positions us to move forward over the next several years."

The company, formed two years ago when South San Francisco-based Genentech Inc. spun out its neuroscience assets through a broad license to Rinat, initially raised $17.5 million. (See BioWorld Today, Nov. 7, 2001.)

Since then, it has moved its lead candidates to the cusp of clinical testing. Eastman said only final preclinical safety evaluations remain before making the leap.

One product, RI 624, is a recombinant humanized monoclonal antibody for acute and chronic pain. Rinat, which expects to file an investigational new drug application for the product in the second quarter of next year, said various preclinical studies to date have borne out its potential.

"RI 624 is an antagonist to an orchestrator of pain," Eastman said, adding that it blocks pain in the peripheral nervous system. He said its favorable side effect profile makes it an attractive drug candidate - the long-lasting compound is nonaddictive and does not cause sedation.

Animal models showed that RI 624 has comparable efficacy to clinical doses of morphine or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Animal studies showed that the product produces none of the adverse effects associated with opiates or NSAIDs, nor has it resulted in other adverse effects.

The other near-term candidate, RI 273, also is a recombinant humanized monoclonal antibody, for chemotherapy-induced neuropathy. Rinat said it plans to file an investigational new drug application for the product during the fourth quarter. Animal studies showed that the long-lasting compound prevents and reverses neuropathy induced by either Taxol or cisplatin, to go with a positive safety profile.

"RI 273 is an agonist that protects nerves against certain degenerative conditions like chemo-induced neuropathy and [amyotrophic lateral sclerosis]," Eastman said.

He added that the latest funding should be sufficient to move both products into Phase II programs, though at some point Rinat would contemplate their future development in collaboration.

"At this point, we will actively consider partnering both products at the appropriate time," Eastman said. "Genentech could very well play a role in both products. It has a co-development option on both of the first two products, but the option does not prevent us from seeking other partners."

Deeper in its pipeline, Rinat is researching a number of different compounds in several areas. It has two products for pain, three for neurological disease and injury, and five for neuropathy. All remain unpartnered, though Genentech retains a co-development option on several of them as well. Eastman said Rinat would work to move one or more of the products into later-stage development over the next several years.

"The primary focus is in the areas of pain and neuropathy," he added. "And they have the highest potential for partnering."

Its numerous near- and long-term opportunities drew several new and existing investors to Rinat's latest financing.

Boston-based MPM Capital led the round, which also included additional first-time investments from Schroder Life Sciences, also of Boston, and Prospect Venture Partners, of Palo Alto. All three appointed representatives to Rinat's board - MPM's Dennis Henner, Schroder's Mike Ross and Prospect's David Schnell.

The second round of financing also drew return investments from Technology Partners, of Palo Alto, and Essex Woodlands Health Ventures, of The Woodlands, Texas.