LONDON - Antisoma plc, a cancer drug development company, is raising #8.7 million (US$13 million) in a placement to fund an expansion of its pipeline.

Glyn Edwards, CEO, told BioWorld International : "We want to expand the pipeline by bringing products in, and to accelerate development of those we have got." The company, based in London, has three products in clinical trials, including one, Theragyn, which is in Phase III, and five preclinical products.

"All the preclinical work is going very well, and in fact we are spawning families of products from AngioMab, which we are developing for brain tumors and other solid tumors, and from our targeted apoptosis product. But you have to expect half your products to fail in Phase II, and so to be sustainable we need to expand."

The overall aim is to double the number of clinical programs before the end of 2001.

The company placed 7.68 million shares at #1.17 per share, a discount of around 8 percent on the closing price on July 26. The new shares represent just under 10 percent of the company.

Edwards said there was no problem with raising the money, and the company could have raised twice as much. "But this gives us a comfortable amount we can pay for licenses and push the existing products as fast as it is possible to go."

Antisoma had a hiccup with its lead product, Theragyn, earlier in the year when an academic published an unapproved study that appeared to show a benefit for the control patients. Recruitment to the Phase III study of the radio-labeled antibody, in the treatment of ovarian cancer, was suspended for eight weeks while the results were reviewed by independent assessors.

"I can't say how much time we lost. There was a seven- to eight-week delay in recruitment, but the optimistic view is that we will pick up the same patients anyway."

Theragyn was licensed from the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), which also supplied it to the doctor who carried out the non-approved trial. "We have learned a lot in terms of relationships with the ICRF, and they agree there should not be academic studies at the same time as full-scale commercial trials."

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