LONDON - The women's health-care company Metris Therapeutic Ltd. raised #11 million (US$16.7 million) in its second funding round.

New investors Sofinnova Partners and Northern Venture Managers Ltd. joined three existing investors - Schroder Ventures, Johnson and Johnson Development Corp. and 3i Group Ltd. - in the round.

CEO Anne Hacker told BioWorld International, "I am very pleased with the fund-raising. This is a lot of money, and substantially more than we set out to raise. I think it reflects the general excitement in the area of women's health where there is a great amount of unmet need, and an aging female population, which means there is a growing market."

The money will enable the company, based in Wokingham, Berkshire, to take its lead product for the treatment of endometriosis through to the end of Phase II, when it will be partnered. The product is an anti-angiogenic protein.

"Although the cause of endometriosis is not clear, we are working on the hypothesis that pain and infertility relates to lesions in the peritoneal cavity," Hacker said. "We aim to cut off the vasculature through the anti-angiogenic activity of our compound."

Endometriosis occurs when the lining of the uterus implants in the peritoneal cavity. Current treatments include hormonal therapies, which have significant side effects, and surgery, which is not always a success. Hysterectomy is considered a definitive cure, but often is an unacceptable option.

The product should enter Phase I in the next six to nine months, with the Phase II complete within two years. The company also is developing treatments for uterine fibroids, painful periods, premenstrual tension and the symptoms of menopause. Some of these will be delivered via Metris' proprietary vaginal drug delivery system. The company also is looking for licensing opportunities to expand the portfolio.

Metris was founded in 1996 by Stephen Smith, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Cambridge. The company raised #5 million in its first funding round in 1998.

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