BORNHEIM, Germany ¿ Axxima Pharmaceuticals AG raised EUR30.6 million in its third financing round. The funds are expected to progress Axxima¿s pipeline, establish the company¿s presence in the U.S. and drive drug candidates into commercialization.

Martinsried, Germany-based Axxima focuses on finding and validating drug targets and drugs for treatment of infectious diseases. Its current pipeline consists of six core projects, in HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, human cytomegalia virus, influenza and tuberculosis, Axxima¿s head of finance, Clive Kr|ckemeyer, told BioWorld International.

¿Our most advanced project is the HIV project with a proprietary drug, compound AXD 455, in Phase I clinical trials,¿ he said. ¿[Using money from the funds raised], we would like to push projects on tuberculosis and influenza into preclinical trials.¿

Regarding the other projects on hepatitis B, hepatitis C and the human cytomegalia virus, the company has validated potential drug targets, Kr|ckemeyer said.

The company calls its approach ¿signal transduction firewall.¿ ¿For survival, the bugs need a signal transduction cascade inside the [human or animal] cell. We aim at inhibiting transduction inside the cell,¿ Kr|ckemeyer said. Axxima searches for drug compounds, affecting certain enzymes (kinases) in this cascade. Drugs affecting the signal transduction mechanism inside the host cell, rather than affecting the bugs themselves, are expected to be more compatible for patients, Kr|ckemeyer said. In addition, ¿for a virus [or a bacterium] it would be more difficult to become resistant against such drugs.¿

The company started talks with potential strategic partners for further development of its core projects.

¿Using the fresh cash we also want to extend our pipeline by further indications,¿ Kr|ckemeyer said. The selection of indications to be added to the pipeline was still under discussion, Kr|ckemeyer said.

The company also is investigating future opportunities in U.S. markets, Kr|ckemeyer said. ¿For example, from a financial point of view, being present in the U.S. would give Axxima a better chance to perform an initial public offering at an American stock exchange, if Neuer Markt does not recover from its current weakness,¿ Kr|ckemeyer said.

The current financing round was led by Bear Sterns Health Innoventures LLC, of New York. Other new investors included HBM BioVentures Ltd., of Zurich, Switzerland; Novartis Bioventures Ltd., of Basel, Switzerland; Heidelberg Innovation Bioscience Venture II GmbH & Co. KG, of Heidelberg; Hungarian Innovative Technologies Fund LLC, of Budapest, Hungary; and WPD Venture Capital II GmbH & Co. KG, of Bremen. Existing investors who supported the financing include the co-leader of this round, TVM Techno Venture Management, of Munich; Schroder Ventures/International Biotechnology Trust plc., of London; NIB Capital Private Equity NV, of Amsterdam, the Netherlands; GLS Holding IX GmbH, of Munich; Sued Venture Capital Investition GmbH & Co KG, of Stuttgart; and private investors Claus and Friedrich Dieckell, of Bremerhaven.

Including the current round, Axxima has raised a total of EUR52.2 million.

Axxima was founded in September 1997 by a group of scientists led by Axel Ulrich, co-founder of Sugen Inc., of South San Francisco, and Martinsried-based U3 Pharma AG, which currently completed its first round of financing. Axxima currently employs a staff of 66.