Berlin-based Mologen Holding AG is progressing into Phase III clinical trials of DNA therapeutic vaccines for kidney cancer and multiple myeloma, following an institutional placement that raised EUR12.45 million (US$11.9 million).

Julius Baer Kapitalanlage AG, of Frankfurt, Germany, led the investment round, which comprised 150,000 new shares, issued at EUR83 per share. Berliner Effektenbank AG, of Berlin, acted as underwriter. The issue price represents a small premium to the company's average closing share price between Jan. 1 and June 23. The new investors now hold 10 percent of the company, said Chief Financial Officer Matthias Reichel.

This transaction has transformed the company's finances. Reichel said the sum involved is 250 percent more than Mologen raised in its IPO on Frankfurt's Neuer Markt in 1998, the year of its formation.

"The deal came about because we progressed much faster than expected," he said. It enables the company to move into full Phase III studies on a solo basis. The company launched a Phase II/III clinical trial of a multiple myeloma treatment in March. A kidney cancer therapy, based on an ex vivo approach, is due to enter Phase II/III studies in October, Reichel said.

Both treatments are based on its proprietary Midge (Minimalistic Immunologically Defined Gene Expression) vector technology, which minimizes the amount of foreign DNA introduced into a transfected cell. Only the cDNA that encodes the protein of interest and the necessary flanking regulatory sequences are included, which, according to Mologen, offers a greater degree of safety than that associated with alternatives such as plasmids or viruses.

Moreover, said business development manager Manuer Stern, Mologen has developed peptides that can boost the specificity of individual Midge constructs, so that they are preferentially taken up by target cells or by the nucleus when used in an in vivo setting.

Mologen is based on the campus of the Free University of Berlin. It was established by CEO and Chairman Burghardt Wittig, an early pioneer of gene therapy in Germany, who also is head of the Institute for Molecular Biology and Biochemistry in the School of Human Medicine at the university.

The company represents a strong public-private partnership, Reichel said, although the university is not, as yet, an equity participant, as German law does not permit it at present. However, this is currently under review for the Berlin lander, or state, Reichel said.

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