By Brady Huggett

Supratek Pharma Inc. quickly closed a C$10 million (US$6.8 million) private placement financing of special warrants, threw the money in the bank to finance its product pipeline, and said it will go public sometime in the next year.

"We are very pleased that it went like a rocket in terms of closing very quickly, and that is a validation of where we are at," said Bill Cheliak, vice president of business development and alliances.

Supratek's core technology, Biotransport, uses building blocks with a variety of compounds to deploy drug molecules in a surpamolecular complex that carries the drug to the target cell. By differing the combinations of the building blocks, the carrier structure is varied and thus customized for a given drug. (See BioWorld Today, March 18, 1998, p. 1.)

"There is not anyone out there that looks exactly like us," Cheliak said.

The company was founded in 1994 by the co-inventors of Biotransport, Valery Alakhov and Alexander Kabanov. Today, Alakhov is vice president of research and development and Kabanov is chairman of the scientific advisory board at Supratek.

The Montreal-based company currently has 10 products in the pipeline targeting cancer, viral diseases and central nervous system diseases. Furthest along is SP1049C, aimed at multiple drug-resistant and metastatic tumors. The product is pushing through Phase I clinical trials sponsored by the Cancer Research Campaign in the UK. (See BioWorld Today, July 14, 1999, p. 1.) The other nine have all reached or are in the preclinical stage, gearing up for Phase I trials. That C$10 million sitting in the bank will fund these upcoming trials.

"Four products will be going to Phase I," Cheliak said. "We have a very deep well that is supplying this pipeline-there are some exciting products coming up in our future. And some money will be spent on corporate development for an IPO. We are anticipating going public in the next year, certainly."

Supratek has 45 people on staff (seven in management), has 13,000 square feet of space, and is valued at C$100 million after the financing, Cheliak said, adding that "10 million is in the bank."

With the constant shuttling of products along the trial trail and the money it requires, Cheliak said the financing will provide Surpratek with roughly 15 months of funding. Supratek plans to develop its products up to the Phase II trial stage, then seek partners for further development and commercialization. The company has already collaborated with Genzyme Corp., of Cambridge, Mass.; Glaxo Wellcome plc, of London; the Harvard Medical School, of Cambridge, Mass.; and Yale University, of New Haven, Conn.

Cheliak said there is a possibility of further collaborations for Supratek's SP1017-Vac, a Biotransport carrier that enhances the efficiency of DNA vaccines and has achieved positive results in preclinical trials.

"We are always on the technology hunt, and we want to exploit the 1017 by either developing in-house or by licensing," Cheliak said. n

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