PARIS - Immuno-Designed Molecules (IDM) has completed a two-stage funding round in which it raised EUR48.9 million (US$42 million), including EUR6.7 million worth of share warrants that can be exercised within two years. The operation was carried out in two stages because of the interest shown by investors in the Paris-based cell immunotherapy company. Following the closure of the initial round on Oct. 6, which brought IDM EUR38 million, another EUR10.9 million was raised in a second phase.

The funds were provided by private Israeli, American and European investors, with the biggest contribution - of EUR20 million - coming from an Israeli consortium comprised of the life sciences investment fund Clal Biotechnology Industries Ltd., Poalim Investments and STI Ventures (see BioWorld International, Nov. 8, 2000). The other main participants were Biotechnology Turnaround Fund (BTF), a recently established Dutch investment fund set up specifically to invest in the biotechnology sector, which put up EUR8.6 million; Alta Partners, of San Francisco, which provided EUR8.45 million; and Medarex Inc., of Princeton, New Jersey, which invested EUR7 million.

Medarex is now by far the largest shareholder in IDM, having boosted its equity stake from 6 percent to 29 percent under the terms of an agreement signed with IDM in October, which gave IDM the right to use certain therapeutic products developed by Medarex. The remaining EUR4.3 million was provided by IDM's existing investors and management.

Before this latest injection of capital, IDM had raised a total of EUR25 million since its creation in 1993, mostly in two funding rounds completed in 1996 and 1998. The company's lead product, IDM-1, a cell therapy for cancer that delivers Monocyte-derived Activated Killer (MAK) cells associated with bispecific antibodies, is now in Phase III trials for the treatment of ovarian cancer. IDM also has four products in Phase II trials, including two MAK-based cell therapies, IDM-2 and IDM-4, being tested in the indications of bladder cancer and chronic lymphoid leukemia. A fifth product is in Phase I/II trials, while another 10 are at the pre-clinical stage.

IDM plans to use the funds raised to speed up the conduct of clinical trials, finance other research programs for the development of anticancer therapies based on the stimulation of immune system defenses, and acquire more licenses for the use of antibodies and antigens, as well as expand its operations in North America.

CEO Jean-Loup Romet-Lemonne told BioWorld International that the additional funding was sufficient to finance the company's research and development for three years, implying that it plans to step up its annual burn rate of EUR12 million (US$10.3 million) by some 25 percent.

He added that, more because of than despite of its healthy financial situation, the company was planning an initial public offering as early as next year. "We are ripe and ready for an IPO and we will go ahead as soon as we feel market conditions are right," Romet-Lemonne said. "We were ready in March-April this year, but because the market wasn't, we went for a private placement instead." In the meantime, IDM is expecting to generate "a lot of revenue" next year through the conclusion of research agreements that are currently being negotiated.

In North America, said Romet-Lemonne, IDM is talking both to potential R&D partners and to companies that could license it rights to antibodies and antigens. The company already has a subsidiary in Canada, and expects to announce a research collaboration with a Canadian company shortly. Centers in Canada and the U.S. are, or will be, involved in the Phase III trial of IDM-1, along with a number in several European countries.

While IDM will continue to concentrate on cell immunotherapies for cancer, Romet-Lemonne said the same technology could subsequently be applied to other pathologies. In particular, IDM plans to develop therapies for infectious diseases, but that would be done in association with a partner company, he said.