RedCell Inc., a San Francisco company developing a red blood cellenabling technology, raised $4.5 million in a Series B financing.

The company, founded in 1993 with $1 million in seed financing, isdeveloping a technology called RedCell Anchor. The idea is toprovide in vivo anchoring of compounds to the red cell membrane.

The company was founded and is chaired by Philippe Pouletty, whois president and CEO of SangStat Medical Corp., of Menlo Park,Calif. The technology involves the conjugation of a drug to a specificanchor (small molecule) that reacts with red blood cells. Thecompound binds to the red blood cells via the anchor, resulting innovel red cell function, the company said.

"The anchor will bring the compounds very rapidly to the red cellmembrane, and will bind the compounds covalently to the red cell,"Bruno Tapolsky, RedCell's president and CEO, said Friday. "It'sreally a novel and unique concept.

"By binding a compound to the red cell, it will adopt the half-life ofthe red cells, which is about 60 days," Tapolsky told BioWorld. Inaddition to longer half-life, benefits include higher potency, lack ofantigenicity and avoidance of the high protein load needed with someexisting immunotherapies, he said.

He said the technology could eliminate some of the limitations ofexisting compounds because the conjugate together with the redblood cell properties are expected to optimize the pharmacokineticsof certain drugs.

Tapolsky said the company has met, and exceeded, milestones set upby initial investors. They included proof of concept in vitro and inanimals.

Among RedCell's next goals are finishing development of the anchor,selecting the best clinical applications and beginning discussions withpotential corporate partners.

Existing shareholders who contributed in the second round includePartech International, of San Francisco; Sofinnova Venture Partners,of San Francisco; and Sequoia Capital, of Menlo Park, Calif. Newinvestors include Technology Funding, of San Mateo, Calif.;Sofinnova S.A., of Paris; and European Medical Partners, of Paris.

"We will be a company heavily focused on corporate partnering,"Tapolsky said, adding that the goal is for that strategy to financeRedCell and allow it later to develop a few selected applicationsindependently.

Among the applications the company sees for its RedCell Anchortechnology are in the areas of autoimmune diseases, cardiovasculardiseases, coagulation, inflammation, infectious diseases, lipidmetabolism and vaccines.

The company said its technology is applicable to multiple drugcandidates, can be tested in animal models for any drug candidateswithin weeks, and is protected by several patent applications.RedCell Europe, a majority-owned subsidiary in Nantes, France,already has established collaborations with European researchcenters. n

-- Jim Shrine

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