By Kim Coghill
CancerVax Corp., a private company conducting two Phase III clinical trials on a vaccine for malignant melanoma, said it completed its initial financing of $30 million through the placement of preferred stock.
The financing was led by Forward Ventures, of San Diego, and included Vector Fund Management LP, of Chicago; Amerindo Investment Advisors Inc., of San Francisco; Athenian Venture Partners, of Athens, Ohio; and a group of other institutional and private investors.
David Hale, president and CEO of Carlsbad, Calif.-based CancerVax, said the company now has about $29 million in cash available and expects it to last through mid-2002. Proceeds from the sale will support the two Phase III trials that are under way at more than 35 sites in the U.S., Europe and Australia to evaluate the therapeutic cancer vaccine.
In addition, Hale said portions of the proceeds will help pay for construction of the company's planned manufacturing facility. He would not release details on the anticipated cost of the facility.
Other portions of the funding will be used to initiate Phase II/III clinical trials of CancerVax's therapeutic vaccine for colorectal cancer and to advance research on vaccines for other cancers.
CancerVax was established in the third quarter of 2000 to continue research being conducted at the Santa Monica, Calif.-based John Wayne Cancer Institute. Hale said the institute had been studying the vaccine currently in Phase III trials since the early 1990s and decided to form CancerVax for purposes of commercialization and regulation of the product.
CancerVax's core technology is based on the development of allogeneic, whole-cell vaccines that express multiple antigens associated with melanoma and solid tumors. When administered to a patient with cancer, the vaccine acts to induce both a cellular and humoral immune response to the cancer. Published results of the extensive clinical testing of the therapeutic vaccine in patients with Stage III and Stage IV melanoma have shown significant increases in five-year survival rates and in survival time compared to controls, a statement released by the company said. Also, there has been minimal toxicity associated with the use of the therapeutic vaccine.
Based on the results of the Phase II clinical studies for the therapeutic vaccine for melanoma, in March 1998, the John Wayne Cancer Institute initiated two multicenter, randomized, placebo-controlled Phase III studies. The first trial is designed to evaluate the therapeutic vaccine in the postsurgical treatment of patients with Stage IV melanoma, while the second Phase III clinical trial is evaluating the therapeutic vaccine in the postsurgical treatment of patients with Stage III melanoma.
CancerVax was founded by Donald Morton, the medical director and surgeon-in-chief at the John Wayne Cancer Institute. n