By Brady Huggett

Raven Biotechnologies Inc., not long out of the nest and growing, raised $20.6 million in a Series B financing to move toward investigational new drug application filings.

"We've got our lead antibody that we are moving toward preclinical," said Don Perryman, vice president and chief business officer at Raven. "That was the goal of the funding: to accelerate the platform."

Specifically, Raven will use the funds to accelerate its programs identifying cancer-specific targets and MAbs to those targets in lung, colon, pancreatic, prostate and ovarian cancers. It also will power Raven's first candidate antibody products through preclinical development. The funding will set the timeline for filing an IND, Perryman said.

"The funding should last us about two years, so it's a two-year window to get an IND filed," he said.

U.S Venture Partners, of Palo Alto, Calif., led the round. New investor Hambrecht & Quist Capital Management, of Boston, participated through its Life Sciences Investors and Healthcare Investors Funds, as well as previous investors CMEA Ventures, of San Francisco; Viridian Capital, of San Francisco; and a number of individual investors.

The round brings Raven's total funds raised since it was founded in 1999 to $23 million, Perryman said.

Raven, of San Carlos, Calif., discovers functionally validated novel drug targets on the cell surface and develops MAbs or other therapeutics to regulate them. It is imminently scheduled to move from its 7,000-square-foot location into a 20,000-square-foot facility and hopes to double its employees to about 40 in the next year. It is setting aggressive goals for the near future.

"We have antibodies that are specific to the tumors we are studying and not to normal tissue," Perryman told BioWorld Today. "We are doing the functional analysis now. I don't want to challenge the gods here, but I would like to have this platform completely industrialized in the next year.

"We have five programs now, five cancers we are studying," Perryman added. "We hope to have a partner in one or two of the cancers in the future. And we would like to be pushing the other three, presumably, forward. The goal is to generate candidates in all five cancer areas."

Perryman said Raven has three routes to the clinic: discovery, partnerships and taking candidates to the clinic itself. As the company is young, partnerships seem the most logical path, but it won't always be that way, Perryman said.

"We would like to get something of our own into the clinic in the next three years," he said.

Raven's approach identifies cell surface targets and monoclonal antibodies to those targets simultaneously, Perryman said, giving Raven the confidence to make claims for the short run.

"We are the only platform that identifies both the target and the antibody in the same process," he said. "That saves a lot of time, a couple of years at least. Some of these timelines I have given you look like biotech pie in the sky unless people understand our process."