BioWorld International Correspondent

MUNICH, Germany - Cardion AG, a company focused on treatments for heart and inflammatory diseases, has secured €11.5 million of funding.

Cardion, of Erkrath, which was founded in 1996, has raised a total of more than €60 million in funding over four investment rounds. Its lead product, CRB-15, is a protein that modifies immune system effects, with potential for rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease and transplant rejection. The company expects CRB-15 to enter clinical development in the second half of 2003.

"The most important reason we were able to secure funding in this difficult market is that we are better positioned," Niels Ackermann, the company's chief financial officer and co-leader, told BioWorld International. "The most important compound in our pipeline is CRB-15, which has strong promise to be the first in a new class of drugs.

"We have broad preclinical evidence that strongly supports the idea that [CRB-15] is very effective without chronic administration," Ackermann added.

Cardion has broad patent protection for the compound, an issue that increases Ackermann's optimism about the company's position. He also said that Cardion holds key patents in stem cell technology, which he expects to be important in the long run. The company's stem cell activities center on a proprietary method with the potential of turning stem cells into pure cultures of certain fully functioning human cells.

"We are already receiving small amounts of revenue from out-licensing the stem cell patents on a nonexclusive basis," he said. "We do not intend to make big money with exclusive licenses because we want to develop the technology ourselves. Particularly in the stem cell field, there is strong potential."

Cardion recently decided to limit its focus to those two areas, immunomodulatory treatments and stem cell technology. As a result, its previous CEO, Michael Ruhl, left the company in July. Since that time, Ackermann and Manfred Ruediger, the chief scientific officer, have shared leadership duties.

Investors in the current round of financing were mainly existing shareholders, the largest of which, Techno Venture Management (TVM), led the round. Other investors included DVC Deutsche Venture Capital, IKB Private Equity, Mulligan BioCapital, Beteiligungsgesellschaft fuer die deutsche Wirtchaft (BdW), Gold-Zack Partners and New Medical Technology.