By Kim Coghill

Washington Editor

PTC Therapeutics Inc. intends to use $40 million raised in a second round of financing to hire additional staff and to invest in drug discovery programs that focus on RNA biology and chemistry.

Founded in 1998 in South Plainfield, N.J., the company has successfully developed technologies that either bind to RNA directly, or modulate the function of RNA in regulating gene expression.

¿After the RNA is synthesized, it is utilized to make proteins. PTC has developed technologies that intervene in modulating how efficiently an RNA makes proteins,¿ Stuart Peltz, PTC¿s president, CEO and co-founder, told BioWorld Today.

The technology has permitted the early stage drug discovery company to develop screens in the areas of anti-infectives, inflammation and oncology, Peltz said.

In its first round of financing last September, privately held PTC raised $15 million. The company had previously raised $1.2 million through a small seed round and milestone payments in 1998 when it was founded by Peltz, Tariq Rana and Allan Jacobson, with the financial help of Peter Svennilson, of Three Crowns Capital; Robert Swanson (former CEO and co-founder of Genentech Inc. and Tularik Inc., of South San Francisco); and Tularik. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 26, 2000.)

But this recent round of financing, according to Peltz, is particularly significant given the state of the slowing economy.

¿We closed a couple of weeks prior to last week¿s tragedy in New York,¿ Peltz said. ¿But even prior to that, it was a difficult fund-raising environment. The fact that PTC raised a large amount of money speaks well of our technologies and our ability to execute on our business strategy.¿

PTC currently has more than $40 million in cash and expects this round of financing to fund the company for the next two to three years. PTC has aggressive growth plans and will add about 25 scientists to the company¿s 52-person work force, Peltz said.

This financing was led by CSFB Private Equity; Vulcan Ventures Inc., of Seattle; and Bay City Capital, of San Francisco. Other investors include CDIB Biotech Inc., of Chicago; China Development Industrial Bank Inc., of Taiwan; Delphi Ventures, of San Francisco; HealthCap, of Stockholm, Sweden; The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company (U.S.A.); NMT New Medical Technologies, of Switzerland; Nova A/S, of Copenhagen, Denmark; and Pictet Global Sector Fund Biotech, of Luxembourg.

PTC¿s other shareholders are Tularik, Three Crowns Capital, of Bermuda, and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ).

In addition to its private financing, PTC has received two $140,000 Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grants from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., to advance the company¿s work in HIV.

Following the financing, PTC appointed Andrew Schwab, principal, of Bay City Capital, and Soren Carlsen, chief science officer for Novo A/S, to the board of directors. The board is chaired by Allan Jacobson, chairman of the department of molecular genetics of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Other members are Ruth Kunath, of Vulcan Ventures; Michael Schmertzler, of Credit Suisse First Boston Equity Partners LP; Peter Svennilson, of Three Crowns Capital; Marc Ostro, formerly senior managing director of KPMG and a founder of The Liposome Co.; Harvey Berger, chairman and CEO of ARIAD Pharmaceuticals Inc.; and Bill Stephenson, vice president of research at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.