LONDON ¿ AM Pharma BV agreed to a collaboration with Leiden University Medical Center to license and develop a diagnostic test to distinguish infection from sterile inflammation in critically ill patients, and announced the completion of its first funding round of EUR640,000.
Paul Leufkens, vice president-business development for the company, of Bilthoven, the Netherlands, told BioWorld International: ¿That was the amount of money we were looking for. It enables us to continue our activities and complete some large studies. We are now looking to raise a substantially larger amount before the end of the year.¿ The company, which is focused on developing antibiotics from peptides of human origin, has started on a second round to raise US$3.5 million.
Investors in the first round include AM Pharma¿s management, private investors and BioPartner Startup Ventures. The company was spun out of the Free University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in July 2000.
The infection diagnostic will be based on human peptides that are able to bind to bacteria and fungi at sites of infection, and can thus be used to distinguish infection from inflammation. AM Pharma says it will be possible also to identify the location of infections. There is a medical need to determine if critically ill patients with fever, including people with AIDS, cancer, the elderly and transplant recipients, are suffering from an infection or (sterile) inflammation. Accurate and fast diagnosis would enable the best treatment to be started promptly.
Leufkens said the company has established proof of principle in animal models, and submitted a research proposal for a government grant to partly fund the project. ¿We plan to continue the development until the late-stage clinic, and will look for a partner to commercialize it.¿
This license means that AM Pharma now has three groups of peptides in preclinical development. It is developing histatin-derived peptides, isolated from human saliva, to treat infection in orthopedic applications and lactoferrin-derived peptides from human milk for the treatment of systemic infection, including infections that are resistant to existing antibiotics. The lactoferrins were licensed from Pharming Group NV, a major shareholder of AM Pharma, that last week went into receivership. (See story on page 1.)
Leufkens said he expects Pharming¿s receivership to be temporary, and that it will not have any effect on AM Pharma.