By Karen Young

Angiogene Inc. secured C$12 million (US$7.7 million) in private financing to move forward its research and development efforts for new therapies treating cardiovascular diseases and cerebral aneurysms.

Funding for the Montreal-based company, which has raised C$18 million in venture capital thus far, was secured from the RBC Capital Partners Life Sciences Fund of Toronto-based RBC Capital Partners Ltd.; the Solidarity Fund QFL, of Montreal; Investissement Desjardins, of Montreal; and CDP Sofinov, a member of CDP Capital, of Montreal. CDP Capital and Innovatech Grand Montreal participated in Angiogene¿s initial financing in 1997.

¿[The funding] will accelerate the pace of our R&D programs,¿ Angiogene President and CEO Francois Bergeron said.

Bergeron was one of the co-founders of the company in 1995. Today, it has 30 employees.

The company also has generated $2 million in revenues from research contracts. It has received C$3 million in research and development credits. And Bergeron said Angiogene is generating revenues through preclinical research work for others.

The latest round of financing allows the company to add to both its executive and scientific expertise. Anticipating the funding, Angiogene hired a vice president of regulatory affairs and a vice president of business development over the summer.

¿We will now increase the depth of our clinical team,¿ Bergeron said, including a director of clinical trials and a clinical research associate, as well as technicians and scientists. Angiogene also will be adding a chief financial officer, he said.

The company¿s focus is to bridge the gap between drugs and devices, he said, using interventional radiology and cardiology. Angiogene¿s anti-restenosis program is based on a beta-emitter radiopharmaceutical compound called Oliglow, which is in one Phase I/II trial in Canada for the prevention of restenosis.

Oliglow, which consists of short DNA sequences that carry one or several atoms of phosphorus 32, is designed to prevent the closing of vascular smooth muscles after angioplasty. Oliglow is delivered following the angioplasty procedure via a specially designed catheter, and also as a stent coating.

For the part of its program of stent delivery of radiotherapeutic drugs, Angiogene is partnered with Biocompatibles Ltd., of Surrey, UK, which has developed a phosphorychloride coating that mimics the outside leaflet of the red blood cell membrane. Together, the companies plan to seek approval to start a Phase I/II feasibility trial in Canada by the end of the year. It will be completed by year-end 2002, Bergeron said.

Angiogene also is developing adjunct therapies. The company will launch a Phase I trial for the treatment of cerebral aneurysms in the first quarter of 2002. This effort, which is being conducted with an undisclosed partner involved in neurovascular devices, focuses on specially coated platinum coils used to fill in vascular walls. The coils are inserted intravascularly by catheter to promote thrombosis and to prevent arterial rupture. Bergeron said that in a dog model, it is ¿crystal clear¿ this technology leads to improvements in filling the aneurysm.

¿[You also want] some sort of tissue growth around the coil, so that the aneurysm will be filled for a long period of time,¿ Bergeron said.

Bergeron said the new funding also would help Angiogene in entering co-development agreements with device manufacturers.

¿So, it will give us the means to take our share, because if we don¿t take our share, we will discount our technology,¿ he said, noting that Angiogene would not be able to retain profits if it expects its partners to bear all development costs.