BioWorld International Correspondent

Swedish drug discovery and development firm Biolipox AB raised €21 million in a second-round financing led by the Paris office of Apax Partners.

The transaction also attracted new investors Crédit Lyonnais Private Equity and Auriga Partners, both of Paris, while existing backers HealthCap, of Stockholm, and Sofinnova Partners, of Paris, also participated.

The Stockholm-based company's total funding raised to date now stands at €26.25 million. The new injection of cash will fund Biolipox for the next two and a half years, CEO Carl-Johan Dalsgaard told BioWorld International. It will be used to advance the company's preclinical programs toward clinical development.

"It's really to bring our projects forward," he said. The company aims to take drug candidates through Phase IIa trials before licensing them out. The company's first drug candidate, an undisclosed molecule in development for respiratory disease, is scheduled to enter Phase I trials in Sweden in the second quarter, Dalsgaard said. It has an additional four programs at earlier stages of preclinical development.

Biolipox was established in June 2000 by scientific founders Hans-Erik Claesson and Magnus Björkholm, both of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Its primary focus is on discovering and developing small-molecule drugs that modulate arachidonic acid metabolism, particularly those aspects of it that are linked with inflammation. Biolipox board member Bengt Samuelsson received a Nobel prize in 1982 for his work in the field, while Claesson also is an expert in the area.

Arachidonic acid, an essential, unsaturated, 20-carbon fatty acid, plays a central role in lipid metabolism. It is metabolized by two principal routes. The cyclooxygenase pathway leads to the formation of prostaglandins, which are implicated in multiple biological processes, including pain, inflammation, fever, reproduction and blood pressure; and thromboxanes, which play a role in platelet aggregation, vasoconstriction and other processes. A second metabolic route, the lipooxygenase pathway, results in the production of leukotrienes, which are potent mediators of inflammation and allergy.

"We are focusing on different targets in the arachidonic acid metabolic cascade," Dalsgaard said. "We have new targets that are not available in the scientific literature." The company's main therapeutic focus now is on allergic rhinitis, asthma and inflammatory pain.

Biolipox has 12 staff on the payroll, plus an additional 30 contracted scientists working under the direction of its scientific founders and other academic collaborators. The company has entered collaborations with French nitric oxide therapeutics specialist NicOx SA, of Sophia Antipolis, in the area of asthma, and with Swiss firm Axovan AG, of Allschwil, in the area of G protein-coupled receptors. (See BioWorld International, Jan. 1, 2003.)