LONDON - Protein engineering specialist Adprotech Ltd. raised #13 million (US$18.9 million) in its third-round financing, providing the funds to get two products into clinical trials next year and qualifying the company to seek an initial public offering before the end of 2001.

CEO Geoff Race told BioWorld International, "This is a lot of money, but we have big ambitions. We are at a fairly advanced stage in terms of the development of the company's technology."

Adprotech, based in Royston, UK, was planning to raise the money externally. "We talked to providers and got a very good response," said Race, adding that this prompted the existing venture capital investors 3i, Alice Ventures, Prelude Trust and Alta Berkeley Associates to fund the round to avoid dilution.

The company raised #5.4 million when it was spun out of SmithKline Beecham plc (SB) in 1997, and a further #5.6 million in March. SB held 10 percent of the equity at the outset, but did not participate in the last two funding rounds, cutting its holding to 3 percent.

The money will last two and a half years, allowing Adprotech to advance lead product APT070C, a complement system regulator, into Phase IIa in rheumatoid arthritis and the prevention of reperfusion injury in transplants.

It also will invest in the further development of two platform technologies, Immunodaptin, for improving the performance of vaccines, and Prodaptin-M, a system for targeting protein therapeutics to specific cells or tissues. Adprotech has signed four evaluation licenses for Immunodaptin and one for Prodaptin-M.

Adprotech intends to get a second product, APT2268, a malaria vaccine based on applying the Immunodaptin technology to a licensed-in antigen, into Phase I in 2001.

The company also is starting a recruitment round to raise staff numbers from 35 to 50, and moving to a larger facility south of Cambridge.

"This is a very significant funding, enabling us to significantly strengthen the structure of the company," Race said.

The current plan is to do an IPO late in 2001, depending on market conditions. "Apart from getting two products in trials, we need to convert some of the current evaluation licenses into full licenses," he said.