OsteoArthritis Sciences Inc., a privately-held biopharmaceuticalcompany based in Cambridge, Mass., has raised $11.1 million in itsthird round of venture capital financing. The company raised $9.4million in previous rounds in 1992 and 1993. It will use the proceeds tofund its research, drug discovery and development programs in the areaof osteoarthritis and other connective tissue disorders.Investors participating in this round included Hancock VenturePartners, Advent International, BancBoston Ventures and JAFCOAmerica Ventures. Investors in previous rounds who also participatedin this round included HealthCare Ventures, Weiss, Peck and Greer,and Oxford Bioscience Partners.The company plans to file its first investigational new drug (IND)application by early 1995. The IND will be for an anti-inflammatorycompound shown in animal studies to be more potent than current non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids.Richard Holbrook, the company's chief financial officer, said thecompany's strategy is to develop drugs that offer localized therapies,since osteoarthritis is a localized disease. The upcoming clinical trialwill focus on inflammation, using a topical application. A later INDwill focus on intra-articular delivery.In conjunction with Johns Hopkins University, the company is alsodeveloping a drug-delivery technology that uses chondrospheres toencapsulate the company's drugs. Chondrospheres, for which thecompany is seeking patent and trademark protection, are a technologythat uses natural products to encapsulate small molecules. They areintended to have a specific affinity for cartilage.Holbrook said this technology will provide increased bioavailabilitywithin the articular joint and allow for the drug to be released on adose-mediated basis. Holbrook said the drug could be delivered byinjection or during arthroscopy."The technology could be used to treat inflammation and to stop thedegradation of cartilage as well as to help the cartilage repair itself. Weare developing a kind of molecular glue approach that will provide amatrix for the cartilage to self-repair," Holbrook said. n

-- Philippa Maister

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