BioWorld International Correspondent

The Swiss therapeutics vaccine development firm Cytos Biotechnology AG raised CHF45 million (US$26.5 million) in its third funding round, boosting total investment raised to date to CHF106 million.

The Zurich-based company is planning an IPO within two years, Chief Financial Officer Jakob Schlapbach said.

A syndicate dominated by Swiss investors participated in the placement, which involved the issuing of 5,087 new shares. HBM BioVentures AG of Baar, Switzerland, the life sciences fund co-founded by Henri Meier, the former chief financial officer of Basel-based F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd., led the transaction. The other participants included Equity4Life AG, of Zurich; Adamant Biomedical Investments AG, of Basel; LCF E. de Rothschild’s Life Sciences Private Equity, of France; and the investment banks Bank Julius Baer and the Cantonal Bank, both of Zurich. UBS Warburg, also of Zurich, advised Cytos on the transaction.

The company did not reveal the post-money valuation, but said it represented “a material increase” on the terms of its previous financing, in July 2000. “We had made enormous progress, reaching many milestones since the last financing round,” Schlapbach told BioWorld International.

The company moved forward on three fronts. Late last year, Cytos entered alliances with Basel-based Novartis AG and Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., based around its Immunodrug therapeutic vaccine technology and its Delphi target identification and validation platform, respectively. “Selling drug discovery to Millennium is a strong signal, I think,” Schlapbach said.

Its internal pipeline of projects advanced as well. The company now has 19 drug candidates in development, Schlapbach said, three of which are licensed to Novartis. It expects to commence pilot clinical studies either later this year or early next year, he said.

The company has not yet disclosed its most advanced program.

Most of its leads are therapeutic vaccine candidates derived from its Immunodrugs technology, the company’s principal platform. This involves the presentation to the immune system of highly repetitive arrays of epitopes associated with disease-related targets. The technique triggers an efficient neutralizing antibody response that has the potential to cure or delay the progression of chronic diseases.

In addition to these advances in its core drug development and platform activities, Cytos’ original business of process development for the manufacture of generic biological drugs, is about to yield a revenue stream. At the end of this year, an undisclosed pharmaceutical firm that has licensed its IP will commence manufacturing of biogeneric drugs. Cytos will gain a royalty income on the resulting product sales.