By Karen Young

Pharmion Corp. raised $65 million in a private financing that will go toward the launch of compounds it got from Celgene Corp. and Pharmacia Corp.

To date, Pharmion, founded in January 2000, has raised $90 million and has about $70 million in cash, President and CEO Patrick Mahaffy said.

¿It is a tribute to the organization and the quality of these compounds to be able to finance at all, much less at this scale in this environment,¿ Mahaffy said. ¿We believe it positions us exceptionally well, not only for these products but to provide resources that will allow us to license in additional products.¿

There will be staff additions, although Pharmion will never be a people-intensive company, he said.

¿We will be putting in place local marketing and sales organizations in each of the larger European markets and in Australia, as well as the United States,¿ Mahaffy said, noting that there will be additions to regulatory staff, as appropriate.

How far the money, which Pharmion described as a mezzanine round, takes the company will depend on any decisions to license in other drugs or other business activity, Mahaffy said.

¿We are actively pursuing additional products, but I would never be one to predict the timing,¿ Mahaffy said.

In November, Boulder, Colo.-based Pharmion signed an agreement with Celgene, of Warren, N.J., that gives Pharmion exclusive licenses to Celgene¿s intellectual property covering Thalomid (thalidomide) and S.T.E.P.S. (System for Thalidomide Education and Prescribing Safety), as well as preclinical data for international regulatory submissions. Separately, Celgene obtained an option to acquire an equity stake in Pharmion. (See BioWorld Today, Nov. 20, 2001.)

In return for licensing payments and royalties, Pharmion received rights to market Thalomid in Europe and Australia. Pharmion plans to file for regulatory approval for the treatment of refractory multiple myeloma and for erythema nodosum leprosum in Europe and Australia in 2002.

In June, Pharmion acquired global rights to develop and commercialize 5-Azacitidine from Pharmacia, of Peapack, N.J. Pharmion plans to file a new drug application in the United States for this drug in 2002, based on a completed Phase III trial in myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), which are bone marrow disorders characterized by the production of abnormally functioning blood cells. There are no approved therapies for MDS.

Pharmion also plans regulatory filings in Europe and other international markets.

Nomura International¿s Private Equity Group, based in London, led the round. Other investors included New Enterprise Associates, of Baltimore; Bay City Capital Fund III, of San Francisco; Proquest Investments, of Princeton, N.J.; NeoMed Management, of Oslo, Norway; Invemed Fund, of New York; HealthCap, of Sweden; Merlin BioMed Private Equity Fund, of New York; and Montagu Newhall, of Washington.

Returning investors include Domain Associates LLC, of Princeton, N.J.; Versant Ventures, of Menlo Park, Calif.; Aberdare Ventures, of San Francisco; Abingworth Management, of Palo Alto, Calif.; and members of the Pharmion management team.

Bay City Capital BD LLC, of San Francisco, acted as an adviser for the private placement.