Signal Pharmaceuticals Inc., a company researching transcriptionfactor modulation, said Monday it completed a $12.3 million venturecapital financing.The San Diego company, which got $2.7 million seed financing andanother $3.5 million in January 1994, now has raised about $18.5million since its May 1993 founding. The latest financing was led byInterwest Partners and included Oxford Bioscience Partners, U.S.Venture Partners and The Vertical Group. Those involved in bothfinancing rounds include Accel Partners, Venrock Associates, KleinerPerkins Caufield and Byers, and Harry Hixson, the former president ofAmgen."The funding will allow us to accelerate our research and developmentefforts in developing therapeutics which regulate the transcriptionfactors involved in many inflammatory, viral and neurologicaldiseases," said Signal President Alan Lewis. "It will also enable us tolaunch new development programs as we begin to establishrelationships with corporate partners."Lewis told BioWorld that Signal's broad technology may have allowedthe company access to venture capital at a time when a number of othercompanies are having trouble finding financing."We're not a single-product company," Lewis said. "A new paradigmis emerging where the investment community is looking for companieswith more than a single-product portfolio or disease target. They'remore interested in the platform technologies which allow one tospringboard for a variety of targets."Lewis said the financing should fund Signal into 1996, and anticipatedpartnerships would make the money go even further.Lewis said a number of approaches have been tried to by blockingindividual mediators of inflammation or individual enzymes. Theapproaches attempt to abolish or reduce single or individual mediatorsof information."Our approach," Lewis said, "is to develop molecules which havemultiple activities in the field of inflammation. They will reduce theproduction of several important cytokines and cell-adhesion molecules,therefore producing highly efficacious molecules for the treatment ofinflammatory diseases."In the neurology area, Signal has acquired technology from theUniversity of California at San Diego, which found a method ofmaintaining a range of cells and neurons in culture in such a way thatthey multiply, even if they do not do so in the body. "We have adaptedthe technology to allow us to grow human neurons in culture usingproprietary conditions," Lewis said. "That allows us to use these cellsfor a variety of purposes, including evaluation of neurodegenerationand cell death."That will allow Signal to investigate specific and natural receptors andion channels on the cells, and consequently to develop small moleculedrugs to block those channels and receptors, he said.Another recent collaboration, with the University of Pittsburgh,involves researching the role of transcription factors in the ability ofthe herpes viruses to exist in a latent state, and then replicate and causedisease. A model system will be developed to test transcription factormodulators to control herpes and other diseases with a latent phase. n

-- Jim Shrine

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