BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - The drug delivery company Vectura Ltd. has completed a second round funding, raising £10.55 million (US$15.09 million) to complete development of its four delivery platforms and advance lead products to Phase I trials.

"We raised a bit more than we set out to do, so it was good given the current market," Peter Virley, CEO of Vectura, told BioWorld International.

The lead investor, Friends Ivory & Sime, put in £5 million, while the Merlin funds, which founded the company in 1997, invested £3.8 million.

Vectura is based on particle engineering technology originally developed at the University of Bath, where the company is currently based. Its four platforms - one in pulmonary drug research, two in oral and one in dermal delivery - are at slightly different stages of development.

"The money will allow us to take them all to proof of principle and scale up, so that we can start attracting pharmaceutical partners," Virley said.

The researcher behind Vectura's technology, John Staniforth, is leaving the post of professor of pharmaceutical technology at Bath University to become full time chief scientific officer at the company.

In the most advanced project, powder inhalation, Virley expects to be doing feasibility work for customers within the next 12 months, leading to licensing deals in 12 to 18 months. Vectura will also build an in-house portfolio of products, which it will take to Phase I trials or Phase IIa experiments before licensing out. While the oral and dermal technologies are for delivering small molecules, the pulmonary one aims at systemic delivery of macromolecules.

"We see the ability to deliver macromolecules as one of the key parts of our portfolio, where we can create a clear competitive edge from our technology," Virley said.

The company has already decided which proteins to put through the pulmonary platform. "I don't want to say what they are at this stage, but they are all approved for delivery by other methods," Virley said. Using approved compounds should shorten development time scales, but "you are still talking about big regulatory hurdles in terms of getting approval for systemic delivery by inhalation," he said.

Several compounds from other companies that use the pulmonary route for systemic delivery have reached Phase I and Phase II studies. "A lot of the [regulatory] spadework has already been done, and we hope to take advantage of the efforts of the pioneers," Virley said.

The £10.55 million will last Vectura three to four years, by which time Virley expects the company to be profitable.

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