Quorex Pharmaceuticals Inc. completed an additional $10.6 million in an extension to its Series B round that originally raised about $20 million in early 2001.

Altogether, the privately held Carlsbad, Calif., company, which is focused on antibacterial agents, has raised about $33 million since its inception in 1999.

"Certainly, the additional financing combined with what we already had raised previously will permit us to continue our drug discovery process in accelerated fashion," Quorex President and CEO Robert Robb told BioWorld Today. "We're trying to exploit several drug targets, including the bacterial signaling targets."

The combined funding should take the company into 2004, Robb said.

The drug targets are present in an array of bacteria, including Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria.

"Our most attractive targets are those that would be present in bacteria broadly," Robb said.

The company plans to be in preclinical studies in 2003, followed by human clinical trials in the early part of 2004, he said.

Quorex, the company said, has a biology platform focused on the validation and prioritization of targets for the discovery of first-in-class bactericidal drugs and those active against biofilm-forming bacteria, which are involved in diseases such as cystic fibrosis.

The company also has Protein Vision technology, which is a computational biology platform that involves algorithms for genomic database mining, among other things, to identify targets. Quorex's ADDS (Accelerated Drug Discovery System) platform includes integrated technologies, such as an in silico approach known as RaLead, assay development, medicinal chemistry and X-ray crystallography to speed up the drug discovery process.

"We're in a fairly unique position because we have a unique biology platform, as well as a proven refined accelerated drug discovery system," Robb said.

RaLead is a central component of Quorex's drug discovery process, he said, because with it, the company is able to minimize or even bypass rate limiting. Essentially, Quorex is able to eliminate the step in conventional drug discovery to perform high-throughput assays to screen enormous libraries of compound to generate leads, he said.

RaLead also offers a screening and docking capability, which Robb described as being able to, in silico with algorithms, dock in an appropriate fashion a compound with a selected target. Based on this screening and docking approach, the company can screen about 3 million compounds virtually before being able to identify a small library of one to 3,000 compounds that it can then test in subsequent biochemical assays.

The RaLead process combined with its clinical biology program allows the company to work quickly, he said.

"It ends up being an iterative cycle so we end up with a set of potent inhibitor compounds from which we select a lead inhibitor," Robb said.

And while Robb said the company has determined that this process can be used in other therapeutic areas, for now Quorex will remain focused on antibacterials.

"The really good news is that we've seen the power behind this system," he said. "We've taken some molecular targets in bacteria from concept to potent lead inhibitors in what we believe to be record time, or less than eight months."

And that process will, he said, keep the company's pipeline full for a long time.

Investors in the financing were Prism Venture Partners, of Boston; Johnson & Johnson Development Corp., of San Diego; Tullis-Dickerson & Co. Inc., of Greenwich, Conn.; IngleWood Ventures, of San Diego; China Development Industrial Bank, of Taiwan; and Pacific Growth Equities, of San Francisco.

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