By Matthew Willett

Corgentech Inc. raised $13 million in a Series B financing for its lead product, a drug/device combination designed to prevent vein graft occlusion.

InterWest Partners, of Menlo Park, Calif.; Alta Partners, of San Francisco; and JP Morgan Partners, of New York, participated in the financing.

South San Francisco-based Corgentech¿s lead program, the E2F Decoy, is a vein treatment that reduces the risk of blockage after coronary artery bypass surgery. Corgentech¿s president and CEO, John McLaughlin, said the funding will finance development of the E2F Decoy program to Phase III.

¿What the drug does is treats veins used in bypass, and prevents them from failing,¿ McLaughlin said, adding that about 30 percent to 50 percent of bypass veins fail. ¿It blocks a cascade that leads to neointimal hyperplasia, which leads to atherosclerotic lesions and occlusions,¿ he said.

In a practical setting, he explained, a vein harvested from a patient is soaked in the oligonucleotide solution, and a slight pressure is applied within the application device, allowing the double-strand DNA fragments to penetrate cells and bind to transcription factors.

¿Because double-strand DNA is fairly big, and transcription factors are inside the cells, the pressure allows them to cross membranes and find the target and bind to it,¿ he said. ¿Our transfection efficiency is about 89 percent. We¿ve done two trials ¿ a Phase I/II in peripheral patients that was reported in The Lancet in October of 1999 that showed statistically significant reduction in graft failure in 12 months, and a Phase IIb trial in which we switched to coronary artery patients. That second trial is complete, and we¿re analyzing the results now, and we expect to announce them shortly.¿

The funding should support quicker development, he said. ¿We got fast-track designation from the FDA in March, and part of that was a meeting with the FDA on our regulatory strategy,¿ McLaughlin said. ¿We hope to start Phase III trials in peripheral patients in mid-summer.¿

Founded in January 1999, privately held Corgentech has more programs in the works, mainly in inflammation.

¿We have three research platforms in the use of oligonucleotides to block transcription factors,¿ he said. ¿It¿s a gene approach, through which we can up-regulate or down-regulate a series of genes, and we¿ve got a couple of research programs under way right now.¿

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