Favrille Inc. completed a Series B financing that raised $16.9 million for its immunotherapy technology, which uses an approach the firm describes as "personal genomics."

"The funding will enable us to continue our clinical trials," said John Longnecker, who was named as CEO, the San Diego-based company also disclosed.

Longenecker previously served as president of DepoTech Corp., of San Diego. When SkyePharma plc of London acquired DepoTech in March 1999, Longenecker served as president of U.S. operations of SkyePharma and as a member of that company's executive committee.

Favrille, which is privately held, had intended to raise only $15 million, but wound up with almost $2 million more, even in a difficult financing environment, Longenecker noted.

The company has two Phase II trials under way with FavId, its patient-specific immunotherapy being studied in non-Hodgkin's B-cell lymphoma for those who have relapsed from other treatments. A product for T-cell lymphoma, called Torrex, is slated for a Phase I trial to begin later this year.

"We're looking at some additional clinical studies in different patients groups later this year" as well, he said.

The company, which also is focused on autoimmune disorders, is expanding its manufacturing facilities to prepare for a pivotal trial of FavId in the second half of 2003. Depending on the cost of this endeavor, the new funding could last between 12 months and 18 months, he said.

Founded in early 2000, Favrille conducted a Series A fund-raising round in May of that year to raise $6 million, Longenecker said. The company now has 33 employees and expects to add to that number with the recent funding.

Two members of Favrille's management team founded the company after developing the technology on which it is based. Robert Shopes, president and board member, and Daniel Gold, executive vice president of research and development, came up with the company's immunotherapeutic approach.

"The concept is to identify specific ideotypes in B-cell lymphoma and then develop an immunotherapy based around that ideotype," Longenecker said, adding that "very strong clinical data" from the National Cancer Institute and at Stanford University have "indicated the potential for very long-term remission."

Favrille's challenge, he said, has been to find a cost-effective and timely way to produce an individualized product - a challenge he said the company has overcome through gene identification and recombinant protein production.

Its process (and the basis of its intellectual property) involves obtaining a biopsy to identify the gene being expressed by the tumor and then producing that as a recombinant protein to create an active immune response against the tumor.

The Series B funding was led by Sanderling Ventures, of San Mateo, Calif. Other new investors included De Novo Ventures, of Menlo Park, Calif.; Indofin NV, of Geneva, Switzerland; and Lotus BioScience Investment Holdings Ltd., of Hong Kong. Returning investors who participated included Forward Ventures, of San Diego, and Alloy Ventures, of Palo Alto, Calif.

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