Ilex Oncology Inc. raised $10 million privately to help advancedevelopment of the seven anti-cancer compounds it has in clinicaltrials.
The financing is the second for Ilex, which formed in 1994 as a spin-off from the San Antonio-based Cancer Therapy and Research Center(CTRC), a non-profit outpatient treatment center. Ilex raised $10.9million in September 1995.
The new financing, disclosed Monday, involved the sale of 2.3million shares of Series C convertible preferred stock at $4.36 pershare. Stock in the $10.9 million financing was sold at $2 per share.
Ilex's goal is to accelerate the development, manufacturing andcommercialization of drugs for cancer. One part of its strategy is tolicense in promising candidates, then later sub-license marketingrights; the second part is to do contract development andmanufacturing for others.
"We try to find compounds that show promise, and use our expertisein oncology drug development to find the best and fastest way tobring them to market," said Beth Shapiro, manager of marketingcommunications for Ilex.
The San Antonio company's lead product candidate is mitoguazonedihydrochloride, which has completed two pivotal studies in patientswith refractory or relapsed AIDS-related non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.A new drug application will be filed this year, Shapiro said.
Additional studies of mitoguazone are planned this year in pancreaticand non-small cell lung cancers. Marketing rights have been licensedto Sanofi Winthrop Pharmaceuticals Inc., of New York.
Another compound, crisnatol, is in Phase III trials in patients withnewly diagnosed glioblastoma multiforme who have completedsurgery and radiotherapy. The randomized trial will determinewhether adjuvant therapy with crisnatol results in improved disease-free and overall survival vs. BCNU, an approved compound for thatindication. The drug interacts with cellular DNA, but the exactmechanism is unknown.
Another candidate in Phase III studies for brain tumors is DFMO,which also is expected to go into late-stage studies for other cancers.The compound inhibits the enzyme ornithine decarboxylase, whichcontrols a step in the synthesis of polyamines that play a role in cellproliferation. Shapiro said the greatest potential of DFMO may be inits preventive capabilities, an application that is being studied in earlytrials.
Piritrexim, an inhibitor of the enzyme dihydrofolate reductase, is inPhase II studies for bladder cancer and Kaposi's sarcoma.Intoplicine, a topo I/topo II inhibitor in Phase I studies, is beingdeveloped to treat solid tumors.
Ilex is not disclosing strategies it has for using DHAC, or 5,6-dihydro-5-azacytidine, in combination with other agents for treating anumber of malignancies. The drug inhibits methylation of ribosomaland transfer RNA, and the transcription of ribosomal RNA andnuclear RNA. The company did say it has DHAC in Phase II trialsfor mesothelioma, a cancer of the pleura surrounding the lungs, and isplanning a Phase II/III study in prostate cancer.
Ilex's seventh product in the clinic is a new formulation ofanimopterin, which is being developed to treat children with acutelymphoblastic leukemia who don't respond to methotrexate. Apreclinical program involves inhibitors of farnesyl transferase forsolid tumors.
The major new investor in Ilex was Perseus LLC, a merchant bankbased in Washington and London. Among original investors whoparticipated in the second round were Boston Capital Ventures;Hambro's Cross Atlantic Partners, of New York; AdventInternational Corp., of Boston; and McCombs Enterprises, of SanAntonio.
"The financing will allow us to more aggressively develop the drugswe have in development, and potentially add new compounds,"Shapiro said. "It also gives us more flexibility in terms of any futureplans for an initial public offering." n
-- Jim Shrine
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