Angiogenix Inc. raised $12 million through the sale of its preferred stock, a third round of venture financing the company attributed to the recent acquisition of a relatively late-stage product.

"This really had to do with Acclaim, a product for nitrate tolerance," Angiogenix Chief Financial Officer Michael Baer told BioWorld Today. "We acquired the intellectual property related to the co-administration of L-arginine with nitrates, which have been used for 150 years to treat angina and congestive heart failure."

From the intellectual property stems a technology to overcome a major drawback in the use of nitrates alone - tolerance. Burlingame, Calif.-based Angiogenix said it plans to use a majority of the proceeds to continue clinical development of the recently acquired nitrate product, for which it already has demonstrated early proof of efficacy. Acclaim, acquired earlier this month from Augusta, Ga.-based NitrOSystems Inc., is in development to treat chronic angina and acute heart failure.

Baer said Acclaim is designed to be longer lasting than the 12- to 14-hours in which most current nitrate products act.

"We think the products we acquired will permit the 24-hour dosing of nitrates," he said, pointing to a trial summary published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology demonstrating an eliminated nitrate tolerance following the co-administration of amino acids such as L-arginine with existing nitrates.

"When you administer nitrates, they use L-arginine and deplete it in the body," Baer said. "By co-administering it, you're putting L-arginine back into the body as the nitrates use it."

Specifically, privately held Angiogenix plans to spend the funds on a dose-ranging trial to identify a precise ratio of L-arginine to nitrate. That process could take two years, Baer said, followed by more expanded Phase II and Phase III studies. He said the company would seek a partner down the road to support the later stages of development. But Baer believes that point isn't too far away.

"The product is probably four years away from approval, which is relatively fast," he said. "L-arginine is used to adjust pH in existing pharmaceutical products, so it's something everyone is relatively comfortable with. The real issue is whether it works, and we already have one study that says it does."

Acclaim is designed to carve out a share of existing generic nitrate products - estimated at $3 billion annually, Angiogenix said.

The firm, which has raised $14.7 million since its 1998 inception, said it also would direct a portion of the funding toward completing preclinical work on the angiogenic technology on which it was founded. Its angiogenic growth factor, Vasotrophin, is designed to stimulate both angiogenesis and arteriogenesis to produce new blood vessels. Angiogenix said Vasotrophin can be injected into peripheral tissue and used with catheter technologies for cardiovascular applications.

"It's an exciting molecule, but it's still in its early stages," Baer said. "We have done work in a couple of animal models showing angiogenic effect, but we still haven't got it into people. We're probably two years away from filing an investigational new drug application."

Kenneth Colley, who later founded the company, developed the angiogenic technology at Georgetown University.

While Baer said it is too early to determine whether Angiogenix would partner out its homegrown angiogenic program, he is looking ahead to future growth. He said the company would likely double in staff size the next year, from eight employees to about 15. And he said Angiogenix would remain on the lookout for future acquisitions that fit its budding therapeutic franchise in ischemia.

"If something makes sense, we will be interested," Baer said.

Led by BioAsia Investments LLC, of Palo Alto, Calif., the financing included new investors Teknoinvest Management AS, of Oslo, Norway; AIG Global Investment Corp., of New York; Posco BioVentures, the biotech investment arm of the Seoul, South Korea-based steel conglomerate Posco; and Kenson Ventures LLC, also of Palo Alto. Returning investors included Asset Management Co., also of Palo Alto; and Sunflower Capital Partners, of San Francisco. Concurrent with the financing, Angiogenix appointed a pair of investor representatives to its board - BioAsia's Albert Cha and Teknoinvest's Steinar Engelsen.