Galenica Pharmaceuticals Inc. looks to the rain forests of Peru for itscompounds, which have wound-healing, anti-microbial and anti-parasitic activities.

The Frederick, Md.-based company, which has recently closed a dealwith SuperGen, of Emeryville, Calif., develops proprietaryprophylactic and therapeutic drugs derived from plants and othernatural sources. The company's initial product focus is on itsproprietary adjuvants for use in vaccines, for both the animal andhuman health markets.

Galenica, which began only a year ago with $175,000 in seed capital,will collaborate with SuperGen on the discovery and development ofnew anti-cancer drugs based on natural products. Under theagreement, SuperGen will make an equity investment in Galenica,giving Super Gen a minority interest in the company, and makepayments on milestones achieved by Galenica during thecollaboration. (Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.)

SuperGen is developing its anti-cancer portfolio of 10 genericproducts and five enhanced, or "supergeneric," products.

"What we do is driven by the experience and relationships of DanteMarciani," David Vigor, executive vice president, chief financialofficer and treasurer of Galenica, told BioWorld Today.

Marciani, president and CEO of Galenica, was in charge of thedevelopment of science and business development of thebiopharmaceutical division Cambridge Biotech Corp. from 1983 to1993.

Galenica, Vigor said, is involved in two near-term productdevelopment programs based on Marciani's research. The first hasgenerated a series of novel, efficacious, semi-synthetic carbohydrate-containing adjuvants for use in recombinant and classic vaccines forthe prevention of infectious diseases.

"Our first lead product," Vigor said, "is a second generation ofadjuvants. One product is a Saponin analogue and the other is apolysaccharide-based adjuvant."

The second program focuses on a treatment for sepsis and is basedupon the antagonistic action of plant bacteria lipopolysaccharideagainst gram-negative bacterial endotoxin. By blocking endotoxinbinding, this antagonist should prevent the explosive release ofchemical mediators which cause organ damage and ultimately toxicshock and death.

Both programs, which have been under study for several years, arisefrom patented or patentable technology licensed from the Universityof Georgia.

"These programs are aimed at animal health and human health,"Vigor said, "but as a pragmatic business decision, we are trying tolicense for animal health-use first and human health-use second."

Galenica's medium- to long-term research programs focus onidentifying and developing drugs derived from plants growing in therain forests of Peru. These programs take advantage of the localethnobotanical knowledge and the clinical expertise provided by thePeruvian University Cayetano Heredia in Lima. Galenica collaborateswith the Peruvian university and has the option to license andcommercially exploit discoveries made in these collaborations.

One such compound, which has yet to be named, that has emergedfrom this program is a product that promotes wound-healing.

Galenica is in the middle of a $3 million private placement, assistedby three venture partners: James Manuso, of Bronxville, N.Y., andDavid Fineman and Gregory Swendson, both of California. "Wehope to close early next year," Vigor said.

Currently, Galenica, which has a burn rate just under $3 million ayear, is keeping costs down by remaining a semi-virtual company.There are no laboratories, only nominal offices and just threeemployees, Marciani, Vigor and Jeffery Press, vice president ofresearch and development. Eventually, Vigor said, the company plansto set up shop in the Washington metro area.

Galenica projects that by the year 2001, the market for new,efficacious adjuvants for use in vaccines against infectious agentsshould be approximately $600 million and the market for theadjuvant component of therapeutic cancer vaccines to be in excess of$200 million. n

-- Frances Bishopp

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.