By Don Long

To advance its nitric oxide (NO) technology, NitroMed Inc. raised $12 million in a mezzanine financing.

The Nitric Oxide Enhance Medicine system called NitRx — works by chemically linking NO with existing medicines to create new drugs.

Benefits include a longer life cycle for the drug and improved safety and efficacy, said Michael Loberg, CEO of Bedford, Mass.-based NitroMed.

"What we want to do now is to take our animal results and show that they pertain to man as well," Loberg said.

The company expects to begin human clinical trials "within the next year," further developing its three lead programs: NO-enhanced, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used to reduce gastric toxicity; treatments for restenosis; and therapies for male erectile dysfunction (MED).

NitRx Could Benefit Viagra Non-responders

As an example of how the NitRx technology would improve the use of MED drugs, Loberg referred to Viagra, the highly touted impotence pill just launched by Pfizer Inc., of New York. Though reportedly effective for many, Loberg estimated that 20 percent to 40 percent of those taking Viagra and other oral impotence medications will achieve no therapeutic result. That provides a major market opportunity for NitroMed's NO technology, according to Lobert.

"NitRx medicines will address the MED market that fails to respond," he said.

While this is, first of all, a key pharmacological strategy, it offers a business strategy as well. NitRx technology aims at no less a goal than "reinventing aging medicines," according to a company overview statement, "thereby extending their product life cycles and revenue."

Thus far, the company has developed two collaborations with New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson subsidiaries: one with Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical for the development of NSAIDs, the other with Warren, N.J.-based Cordis Corp. for development of therapies for restenosis and cardiovascular diseases. (See BioWorld Today, April 21, 1997, p. 1.)

Participants in the financing, led by Rho Management, of New York, included existing investors HealthCare Ventures LLC, of Princeton, N.J., and Johnson & Johnson Development Corp., of New Brunswick, N.J., along with new investors Goldman Sachs, of New York; Boston University's Community Technology Fund, of Boston; Curran Partners, of Stamford, Conn.; and Senmed Medical Ventures, of Cincinnati. *