By Randall Osborne

West Coast Editor

To push its lead product for ragweed allergy into late-stage trials, Dynavax Technology Corp. raised $22.6 million - nothing to sneeze at - in a private placement of preferred stock.

"We could do better, but it could always be worse, too," said Dino Dina, president and CEO of Berkeley, Calif.-based Dynavax.

Privately held Dynavax's lead products are based on ImmunoStimulatory Sequences (ISS), short segments of DNA that help the immune system fight disease and prevent inflammation.

The company is working on three therapies based on ISS technology. One links it to allergens for treating allergies, another links it to antigens for infectious diseases and cancer, and the third uses ISS alone for inflammatory diseases.

The lead product, AIC, is a highly purified form of the main ragweed allergen, Amb a 1, linked to multiple DNA segments. In March, Dynavax's collaborators at Johns Hopkins University presented data from a Phase I safety study that showed AIC was significantly less allergenic than the licensed ragweed extract that is the current immunotherapy product for the condition.

"We have two ongoing Phase I/II trials, one in the U.S. and one in France, and we're about to start a third in Canada," Dina said.

Dynavax also has programs in hepatitis B, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

"We've filed [an investigational new drug application] for hepatitis B, and hope to start trials by the end of this year," Dina said. "We're preparing for other projects, one more in the first half of next year, and another in the second half."

The rheumatoid arthritis drug, he said, is "a small molecule, an orally available compound with a totally different mechanism of action" from the ISS drugs, which themselves - although sharing the platform - are different from each other.

All current investors participated in this financing round, including Alta Partners, Axiom Venture Partners, BA Venture Partners, Biotechvest L.P., Forward Ventures, InterWest Partners and Sanderling. New investors include bioMerieux Alliance S.A., China Development Industrial Bank, JAFCO, Phillips Capital Management and Finedix B.V., as well as various individuals.

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