By Lisa Seachrist

Washington Editor

Kinetek Pharmaceuticals Inc. raised C$20.1 million (U.S. $13.83 million) in the second round of its equity financing from private investors, and acquired Tyrogene Biotechnologies Inc.

All previous Kinetek investors joined a number of new investors in the financing for privately held Kinetek, a Vancouver, British Columbia, company that focuses on developing drugs to interact with a variety of cell signaling pathways. The financing was led by the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, Royal Bank Ventures Inc., Ventures West B.C. Technology Investment Fund and the Working Opportunity Fund.

Terms of the acquisition of Montreal-based Tyrogene were not disclosed.

¿The acquisition of Tyrogene was separate from this financing,¿ said David Roberts, vice president of corporate affairs and communications. ¿But, we are always in the market for early stage technologies, and it¿s possible there would be an additional acquisition.¿

Tyrogene¿s technology includes two validated drug targets that are protein tyrosine phosphatases (PTP). These drug targets, TC-PTP and PTP-PEST, are potential cancer therapies. TC-PTP ordinarily becomes active when a cell is damaged and serves to protect the cell. In a cancer cell, TC-PTP is overactive, allowing the cancer cells to withstand assaults by standard chemotherapy and radiation.

¿By knocking out the activity of TC-PTP we hope to sensitize cancer cells to any number of cytotoxic agents,¿ said Jasbinder Sanghera, vice president of drug discovery at Kinetek. ¿All of these chemotherapy agents have nasty side effects. With a small molecule that inhibits the activity of [TC-PTP], it is possible you could lower the dose of chemotherapy or radiation and allow for less side effects.¿

Sanghera said PTP-PEST also is an important target for anticancer drugs. When PTP-PEST is active, it permits cells to move around. This particular enzyme is very tightly regulated in normal cells, but in cancer cells that regulation is lost and tumor cells can migrate, causing cancers to metastasize.

¿What we need is a way to bring the activity [of PTP-PEST] down to normal levels,¿ Sanghera said. ¿If we can control the behavior of the cell, we should be able to control the disease.¿

Sanghera said the Tyrogene technologies are a good complement to Kinetek¿s current kinase program. Kinetek is developing two classes of anticancer compounds that inhibit integrin-linked kinase (ILK) and protein B kinase (PKB), enzymes implicated in the control of angiogenesis, metastasis and apoptosis.

Kinetek¿s most advanced program is its anti-diabetes program. The company¿s lead diabetes drug, KP-102, is poised to begin Phase II clinical trials. KP-102 is an insulin sensitizer.

¿With this financing and the progress we¿ve made on our programs, I think it¿s going to be an interesting year for Kinetek,¿ Roberts said.