By Randall Osborne

West Coast Editor

A year after nixing its initial public offering, Drug-Abuse Sciences Inc. (DAS) raised $24 million from new and existing investors, as the firm gears up to file a new drug application (NDA) in the second half of this year for its controlled-release formulation of an alcoholism treatment.

Based in Los Altos, Calif., and Paris, DAS has six products, including oral naltrexone, which was launched last year to treat alcoholics. In Phase III trials is naltrexone depot, injected once to deliver the drug to the brain over several weeks. The drug blocks exogenously administered opioids, too.

"The money will be used principally to complete the registration trial and prepare ourselves to enter the market [with naltrexone depot]," said Elizabeth Greetham, CEO of DAS. The main advantage of the controlled-release version is better compliance, she said.

"We've done focus groups with physicians, and they know it's an effective drug. It's just not much good if you say, 'Take it every day,' and that's not what an addict is capable of doing," Greetham told BioWorld Today. "This is a 30-day delivery. Once you've blocked the receptor, the first thing that happens is your craving goes. Patients who have been heavy drinkers will leave their beer or scotch or whatever. They'll walk away from it."

DAS also is working on Naltrel, a once-per-month injectable treatment for heroin addicts. Another product in the pipeline is injectable buprenorphine depot, which would be administered once every four weeks to six weeks by a physician or a nurse. The drug ensures chronic occupancy of the opiate receptors, which makes heroin users much less likely to relapse. Trials for buprenorphine depot are expected to begin late this year.

In cocaine abuse, the company has DAS-431, a dopamine receptor agonist, with a Phase IIb confirmatory trial also planned in 2001.

"We'll do some aerosol development with that, and take the intravenous formulation into Phase IIb trials," Greetham said.

With Lyon, France-based Aventis Pasteur SA, DAS is developing COC-AB, an equine antibody intended for emergency room treatment of cocaine overdose and toxicity, with human trials planned late this year.

Greetham said the cash raised will be used 80 percent for clinical development, and 20 percent for commercial efforts.

Canaan Partners, a new investor, led the financing round, principally supported by 3i, of London, and Nomura Securities International plc, of New York. Canaan's general partner, Seth Rudnick, gets a place on DAS's board of directors as part of the deal. UBS Warburg LLC, of Stamford, Conn., acted as sole placement agent and financial adviser. n

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