By Brady Huggett
EluSys Therapeutics Inc. closed a $17 million Series C preferred stock private placement and said the funds will be used to move its first product into human trials and, perhaps, defend the country.
The third round of financing for Pine Brook, N.J.-based EluSys gives it a $30 million total raised to date. The round was led by Invesco Private Capital Inc., of New York. Other investors included Legg Mason¿s Emerald Investment Partners Fund, of Washington; Eagle Advisors, of New York; Essex Woodlands Healthcare Ventures, of The Woodlands, Texas; and Crescendo Ventures, of Minneapolis.
¿What we are going to do is put our first product, a lupus product, into man,¿ said Stephen Sudovar, CEO and president of EluSys. ¿And we will continue our work for an anthrax product.¿
EluSys was founded in 1998 by Jeff Wolf and Jeff Himiwan, two men who were working for Seed-One Ventures LLC, of New York.
¿They got up the money to acquire the technology from [the University of Virginia], then they basically were a virtual company, then they went out and hired me,¿ Sudovar said. The company has 25 employees now.
That UVA technology is EluSys¿ base ¿ the Heteropolymer technology. The idea behind it is to quicken the ridding of blood-borne pathogens and autoantibodies from the blood, with the understanding that the less time they are floating in circulation, the less damage they can do.
¿The Heteropolymer technology, it is somewhat of a blood-cleansing technology,¿ Sudovar said.
The Heteropolymer System is a monoclonal antibody-based technology designed to allow the body to use its own red blood cells to remove and destroy blood-borne pathogens and autoantibodies. It uses a bi-specific monoclonal antibody that binds the antigen of choice to red blood cells.
The red blood cell tows the antigen or autoantibody to the liver. In the normal process of successfully fighting disease or bodily invasion, first the body must recognize what it is fighting. Sudovar said the Heteropolymer technology circumvents that.
¿What we learned is we can often bypass the complement system,¿ Sudovar told BioWorld Today. ¿In the example of Pseudomonas, we have an antibody-antibody heteropolymer ¿ one connected to the red blood cell and one to the targets,¿ he added. ¿You don¿t need complement, you go right by complement. It drags the invading antigen right to the liver where it is destroyed.¿
Sudovar said the first trials for the lupus product should begin in September or October, and are scheduled to take place in Germany. The safety profile from preclinical work looks ¿absolutely fantastic,¿ he said. But EluSys has other uses for its technology, and recently signed a collaborative agreement with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases to develop treatments for anthrax and other potential biowarfare agents.
¿First we will look at anthrax, but we may include Ebola and smallpox,¿ Sudovar said. ¿We screened [the Army¿s] antibodies and selected the ones that we think are best and are now selecting heteropolymers.¿
Tests for the anthrax product will be done in the protective arms of Uncle Sam at Fort Dietrich in Maryland and mainly will focus on animal models, Sudovar said. In fact, privately held EluSys has done most of its preclinical work on nonhuman primates because only primates have the CR1 receptor sites on the red blood cell that are necessary for the Heteropolymer technology. Primates are expensive and not the preferred animal model, Sudovar said, which is why EluSys is looking into transgenic mice that have the receptor, allowing them to do studies in a lower species.
But with two avenues for its Heteropolymer technology ¿ both therapeutic and as a means of national defense ¿ Sudovar said money is sure to follow.
¿I¿m confident we will have a profitable outcome for all involved,¿ he said. ¿I¿m confident we will move through the milestones and advance this technology because there are almost too many disease applications for us to handle.¿