West Coast Editor

As it strives to find new ways of delivering large molecules, Syntonix Pharmaceuticals Inc. found a way through the tight market, injecting itself with $35.8 million in a Series B preferred stock financing.

Privately held Syntonix, of Waltham, Mass., aims to deliver therapeutic proteins, vaccines or other large molecules by pulmonary, intranasal and maybe even oral routes, starting with marketed proteins.

Much of the money will “go into additional resourcing, to put products into a formal preclinical development track, with an eye to getting three products through Phase I by the end of 2003,” said Garen Bohlin, president and CEO of Syntonix.

Founded in 1999, Syntonix is based on work from an academic collaboration involving several institutions in the Boston area during the mid-1990s. The company uses a naturally occurring antibody receptor, FcRn (found in human mucosal epithelial cells), linking the Fc subunit to proteins and other large molecules, thereby enabling receptor-dependent uptake as well as transport across mucosal barriers.

“The first three years [of the company’s existence] have been devoted largely to pulmonary inhalation,” Bohlin said. “We felt we’d be able to put points on the board earlier.”

In preclinical tests, Syntonix said in a press release, it already has “achieved unprecedented pulmonary delivery results” with its erythropoietin and interferon alpha fusion molecules, and the first lead product candidate is expected to enter study in humans later this year.

“We’re still deciding which product is going first,” Bohlin told BioWorld Today, adding that a new delivery form of the blood-booster erythropoietin, which has reaped much revenue for Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based Amgen Inc., is “certainly a candidate.”

Leading the financing were new investors Bay City Capital LLC and Alta Partners, both of San Francisco. Carl Goldfischer of Bay City Capital and Alix Marduel of Alta have joined the Syntonix board.

New investors also included A. M. Pappas & Associates, of Research Triangle Park, N.C.; Global Biomedical Partners, of New York; and The AFB Fund, of New York. Also participating were previous investors Venrock Associates, of New York; BancBoston Ventures, of Boston; Merrill Lynch Ventures, of New York; and others.

The financing came in three closings one in late February, one in early March, and the final one April 1. Syntonix started raising money last summer, hit a snag with the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, and resumed efforts in October.

At present, Syntonix’s primary focus is on proteins, but that could change.

“We have earlier-stage research going in the vaccine area, but that will be a nominal area for now,” Bohlin said, adding that the “very challenging” zone of oral delivery is another that Syntonix may more seriously explore.

“It depends on where [the research] takes us,” he said.