By Mary Welch

Vascular Therapeutics Inc. completed a more than $21 million private placement that will help advance its lead compound, Vasoflux, through Phase II trials and next year's planned Phase III studies for acute myocardial infarction.

Vasoflux is a chemically and physically modified oligosaccharide that catalyzes a naturally occurring protein to go after clot-bound thrombin rather than free thrombin. Thrombin bound to the clot still is catalytically active and is the cause of the continual clotting process, even when anti-clotting drugs such as heparin are given. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 18, 1996. p. 1.)

Early studies show Vasoflux shortens the time to dissolve blood clots without the bleeding often associated with traditional anticoagulants. By rapidly removing blood clots in coronary arteries, the patient experiences less heart muscle damage.

"What we're hoping the trial shows is that once you open the artery, Vasoflux prevents the arterial clots from re-forming and you achieve a more open artery," said Jim Allen, president and CEO of the privately held Mountain View, Calif., company.

Vascular Therapeutics' research arm is located in Hamilton, Ontario, where it is associated with the Hamilton Civic Hospitals Research Centre, a facility dedicated to thrombotic research.

BioAsia of Palo Alto, Calif., led the $21.55 million financing. New investors included Royal Bank Capital Corp. and AGF Management, both of Toronto, and EGS Private Healthcare Partnership, of New York.

Past investors who participated in this round included MDS, of Toronto, and its associated investors; Canadian Medical Discoveries Fund and Working Ventures Canadian Fund, both of Toronto; and Medicos Venture Partners, of Menlo Park, Calif.

As part of the placement agreement, Edgar Engleman will join the company's board of directors. Engleman, a professor of medicine and pathology at Stanford University School of Medicine, in Palo Alto, Calif., is also a board member of BioAsia.

"We were hoping to raise $15 million," said Allen. "But we got a very good reception. Cardiovascular areas are big and we have a unique product that is different from other anti-coagulants. And when the money's there, you take it."

Studies Test Vasoflux With Thrombolytic

Enrollment in the 300-patient multicenter, blinded Phase II study will finish in September, and the company expects results by the end of the year. Phase III trials should start in 1999.

"We expect to go into Phase III next year, but even before that, we expect to find a partner to take it to market and further develop it," Allen said.

The trial tests patients' responses when Vasoflux is administered in conjunction with a thrombolytic (or clot-busting) agent or when the thrombolytic agent is given with a placebo. Ninety minutes after taking the drugs, patients will be examined to determine which treatment leaves the arteries not only open, but open wider.

"The only results we have back so far are in safety and it looks safe," he said. "Right now we're using the highest dosing and there's been no safety issues."

In addition to earmarking the funds for Vasoflux, the company has two other drugs scheduled for Phase I testing next year. Both are anti-coagulants. One is for unstable angina, the other for venous thrombolic diseases.

"We have a lot in the pipeline and expect promising results from our Vasoflux trial," said Allen. "The next thing is that we're planing an IPO (initial public offering) next year and already are talking to underwriters." *