By Lisa Seachrist

Washington Editor

Cytoskeleton specialist Cytokinetics Inc. raised $20 million in a Series B preferred stock equity financing with a group of private investors.

Leading the financing were new investors International Biomedicine Holdings, of San Francisco and Basel, Switzerland, and Paul Allen's Vulcan Ventures Inc., of Bellevue, Wash. The Mayfield Fund, of Menlo Park, Calif., and Sevin Rosen Funds of Palo Alto, Calif., previous institutional investors in the South San Francisco-based company, joined new investors Duke University of Durham, N.C., and New Medical Technologies. A set of individual investors including William J. Rutter, founder and former chairman of Emeryville, Calif.-based Chiron Corp., rounded out the financing.

"We are very happy with the way that this financing worked out," said James Sabry, Cytokinetics' president and CEO. "It was a large, oversubscribed financing in a very difficult market. I see it as a testament to what we've been able to accomplish."

Sabry told BioWorld Today the company intends to use the money raised to expand its drug discovery and cellular informatics technology. Cytokinetics focuses on the cytoskeleton - a multi-component framework involved in all aspects of cell mechanics, including cell division, motility, transport and regulation of cell polarity.

The company's drug discovery program currently is aimed at cancer therapies, and to a lesser extent cardiovascular therapies. However, the cytoskeleton plays critical roles in a number of different disease etiologies, and Cytokinetics also will focus on infectious diseases.

"Cytoskeletal pharmacology is an emerging field and Cytokinetics is a leader in the field," Sabry said. "This represents a fresh approach in drug development."

In addition to its drug discovery business, Cytokinetics has a cellular informatics business, which uses a high-throughput process to identify the biological response cells have to various drug candidates or conditions.

"We are looking at the whole realm of biological responses from effects on cell adhesion to cell signaling to cell cycle," Sabry said.

The company is developing the Cytometrix cellular product line consisting of a series of databases on cytoskeletal pharmacology, high-resolution image tools and advanced automated instrumentation. It is designed to measure and interpret cellular physiology and the company is planning an upcoming beta release of Cytometrix.

Sabry said the 35-employee company will use a portion of the proceeds from the financing to help develop the critical mass needed to expand both its drug discovery and bioinformatics efforts.

Cytokinetics' business model includes revenues from collaborations in drug discovery as well as providing informatics services and selling database products. To date, the company has no collaborations or clients. Sabry noted, however, talks with several potential collaborators and clients are under way.

In addition to raising capital, Cytokinetics appointed Rutter and Stefan Ryser, CEO, member and delegate of the Board of International Biomedicine Management Partners Inc., to the company's board of directors.