By Randall Osborne
West Coast Editor
With big plans for the small peptide that leads its program, Cytran Corp. placed $17 million privately in convertible debentures.
Proceeds will help pay for completion of a pivotal Phase III trial of the peptide, IM862, in Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), and for expansion of the ongoing cancer program, said Anne Bugge, spokeswoman for Kirkland, Wash.-based Cytran.
"We're in Phase II [trials] with ovarian, melanoma and prostate," Bugge said. Investigator-sponsored Phase II studies also are under way in colorectal cancer and renal cell carcinoma, she said. Cash from the placement also will finance other peptides in Cytran's portfolio.
IM862, tested in more than 300 malignancy patients without significant toxicity, is made of two amino acids, introduced into the bloodstream by way of nasal mucosa.
"It's nose drops that patients self-administer, daily or every other day," Bugge said. Cytran has worldwide rights to the peptide technology that gave rise to IM862 except in Russia, where the research originated at the Kirov Medical Military Academy in St. Petersburg.
The drug "was being considered for the anti-infectious area," Bugge said. Work at Cytran found the anticancer properties. Disclosing favorable Phase I/II data for KS last year, Cytran said the immune-modulating drug apparently inhibits angiogenesis by blocking production of vascular endothelial growth factor and augmenting production of interleukin-12. (See BioWorld Today, May 18, 1999.)
In that study, 37 percent of patients experienced either a complete or partial response and 48 percent more saw no advance of the cancer. Treatment was well tolerated with minimal side effects.
The KS indication happened to be furthest along and thus was first to reach Phase III, Bugge said, adding that further results from the Phase II trials will determine which cancer type will be next to undergo more extensive study.
Coming through as a lead investor in the latest financing was Cytran's first partner, Alza Corp., of Palo Alto, Calif., to which Cytran licensed the peptide, IM862, one year ago. That deal included Alza's purchase of $5 million in convertible debentures from Cytran, which said it was raising up to $20 million through such sales. (See BioWorld Today, Aug. 18, 1999.)
Another main investor in the more recent sale was the Stephens Group Inc., of Little Rock, Ark. Other buyers are in the U.S., Europe and Asia.