BioWorld International Correspondent

BORNHEIM, Germany - Micromet AG completed its fourth financing round, raising a total of EUR40 million (US$35.2 million).

The company said it would use the money to fuel development of its lead immunotherapeutic drugs, expand and mature its pipeline of new drug candidates and broaden its platform of novel antibody derivatives.

Micromet, of Martinsried, Germany, is developing drugs to help a patient's immune system tackle life-threatening and severe chronic diseases. Fundamental to its therapeutic strategy is the elimination of cells that play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of human diseases such as cancer and autoimmune and inflammatory diseases by recruiting and activating immune effector cells.

"In cancerous or inflammatory tissue, there are many T cells around the pathogenic cells," Micromet spokeswoman Evelyn Wolf told BioWorld International, adding that the T cells could be highly efficient in killing the pathogenic cells. But they need an impetus to do so.

"Our proprietary BiTE [bispecific T-cell engager] compounds give impetus to T cells," she said. One end of the BiTE binds with high specificity to a certain antigen of the cell causing disease.

"Bound to a pathogenic cell, BiTEs recruit and, at the same time, activate T cells for selective and efficient elimination of pathogenic cells," Wolf said, adding that BiTE molecules without pathogenic cells do not affect T cells in any way.

Micromet expects two projects to enter clinical trials this year: MT103, a BiTE molecule targeting the B-cell marker CD19, for treatment of B-cell tumors, and MT201, a fully human antibody targeting the pan-carcinoma antigen EpCAM, for treatment of adenocarcinomas.

MT102, a BiTE molecule targeting EpCAM for treatment of epithelial cancers, is expected to enter clinical trials in 2002. MT107, a BiTE against a chemokine receptor on activated immune cells for treatment of inflammatory disease, is expected to enter clinical trials in 2003.

The syndicate of investors in the recent financing round was led by Advent Venture Partners, of London. Further investors included funds advised by Medical Strategy, of Munich, the Wellcome Trust, of London, and the International Biotechnology Trust, of London. Previous investors Atlas Venture, of Munich, and Schroder Ventures and Abingworth, both of London, participated as well.

In its previous round, the company raised about EUR11 million in March 2000. Micromet was founded in 1996 and has 74 employees.

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