NeurogesX Inc., a company focused on treatments for pain, raised $23 million in its Series B round of funding.

Howard Palefsky, chairman and CEO of the San Carlos, Calif.-based company, said the money will allow NeurogesX to continue development of its portfolio, which includes the Transdolor Pain Treatment System, about to enter Phase II trials for neuropathic pain.

“We will be moving products through the portfolio as well as in-licensing and identifying other molecules for pain,” Palefsky told BioWorld Today.

To date, privately held NeurogesX has raised $30.4 million, having raised about $7.5 million in its Series A funding round in June 2000. This money should take the company through the end of 2003, Palefsky said.

The company’s strategy at least initially, he said is to look at widely used substances, such as capsaicin, the extract of the chili pepper, and deliver them through a proprietary system. For example, the company is looking at drugs with expired patents.

NeurogesX focuses on two types of pain: tissue injury pain, which will heal over a period of time; and neuropathic pain, which results from damage to the sensory nervous system, often caused by diseases such as diabetes, shingles or HIV. NeurogesX estimated that, including damage from trauma, at least 9 million U.S. patients suffer from chronic pain as a result of having these diseases.

Individuals suffering from neuropathic pain, where the nerve signals continue to fire even though there is no reason or stimuli, often take a variety of drugs ranging from antidepressants to anticonvulsants, Palefsky said.

The Transdolor Pain Treatment System is based on high concentrations of capsaicin delivered through a patch on areas that have been anesthetized topically before application. Transdolor PDT may work for an extended time, compared to over-the-counter treatments that require multiple applications within a day.

NeurogesX also has three potential products that do not use capsaicin, but are delivered in a proprietary way, he said. These are still in preclinical testing, and Palefsky did not want to discuss them at this point in their development.

The company was founded by Wendye Robbins, who serves as president and chief medical officer. Robbins formerly was assistant professor of anesthesia and peri-operative care at the University of California at San Francisco.