By Karen Young

D-Pharm Ltd. closed a $30 million private placement of Series D preferred stock, a financing expected to fund the company for two to two and a half years.

¿We certainly have very big plans for the $30 million,¿ said Yaffa Beck, vice president and chief operating officer.

The company currently is valued at $80 million after this latest round of financing, said Yafit Katz-Rubin, a marketing communications representative for Rehovot, Israel-based D-Pharm. D-Pharm had raised $23 million in three previous rounds, in 1995, 1997 and 1998. The company has 96 employees, including a vice president in the U.S. working only on collaborations with pharmaceutical companies.

The company now is set to begin a Phase II trial of DP-b99, which is designed to treat acute stroke.

Beck said D-Pharm intends to develop this compound on its own for stroke, as well as a neuroprotective agent for traumatic brain injury and as a prophylactic treatment of neurological damage associated with coronary artery bypass graft surgery.

¿Certainly, that money will carry us through Phase II/III [in stroke],¿ Beck said.

The new financing also will help D-Pharm move its three preclinical products into Phase I trials. These products are DP-71 for psoriasis and cancer; DP-243 to treat brain tumors; and DP-109, to treat Parkinson¿s disease.

DP-71 is a prodrug of a marketed anticancer agent, methotrexate. It is based on D-Pharm¿s D-Rap (reregulated activation of prodrugs) technology, in which RAP-modified prodrugs are designed for selective metabolic activation within disease-affected cells.

The company said DP-243 is part of a series of compounds based on its latest technology platform, Lipidomimetix. The compounds are new chemical entities designed with selective blood-brain barrier penetration capability. DP-243 is under investigation as an adjuvant anticancer agent.

DP-109, an orally available compound, is based on D-Pharm¿s membrane-activated chelator technology, designed to control apoptotic processes via modulation of transition metals such as copper, zinc and iron.

The company said Monday that Shire Pharmaceuticals Group plc, of Andover, UK, is initiating Phase II trials for the anti-epileptic agent SPD 421, previously known as DP-VPA and D-Pharm¿s first compound to reach clinical studies. Results are expected no sooner than next summer, Beck said. SPD 421 is a phospholipid derivative of valproic acid, a drug widely used for the treatment of epilepsy. It is based on the D-Rap technology.

D-Pharm also is collaborating with Nycomed Amersham Imaging, of London, and with Eli Lilly & Co., of Indianapolis, on the application of its lipid vector technologies to their proprietary drug candidates.

The financing, led by Care Capital LLC, of Princeton, N.J., included commitments by Morgan Stanley Venture Partners, of New York; Rho Ventures, of New York; and Quintiles Transnational Corp., of Research Triangle Park, N.C. Returning investors include Clal Biotechnology Industries Ltd., a subsidiary of Tel Aviv-based Clal Israel; the Gemini Group; Denali Ventures; and Vertex Group.

SG Cowen Securities Corp., of New York, was the exclusive placement agent for the equity financing.

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