A young pharmaceutical company with an expanded missionhas completed the first stage of a private placement, bringingin $8 million.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. was formed in January 1992 inNew Haven, Conn., to research potential pharmaceutical and celltherapy treatments for cardiovascular, immunologic andhemotologic disorders.

The private company has since added tissue engineering, drugdelivery and drug screening activities, said its founder andpresident, Leonard Bell.

The financing was led by D. Blech & Co. of New York, whichprovided all of the company's initial funding of roughly $5million. Other organizations participating in the current roundare Invesco, Schroder Ventures, Allen & Co. and the state ofConnecticut through Connecticut Innovations Inc.

Bell told BioWorld he has targeted $12 million to $16 milliontotal for the second round of the private financing.

He said the financing should fuel development of thecompany's programs in complement inhibitors, cell therapy andorgan replacement and protein drug delivery.

The 31 in-house scientists have discovered 10 inhibitors of thecomplement cascade, Bell said, since the company exclusivelylicensed a patent on a naturally occurring complement inhibitorlast August from the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.

The complement system injures cells during the body'simmune response in inflammation, and can play a role inautoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus,as well as in reperfusion injury and organ rejection.

The compound covered by the company's U.S. Patent, No.5,135,916, is dubbed CD59. It can disrupt the membrane attackcomplex of complement proteins from forming on the surfaceof platelets and endothelial cells.

The other recently discovered inhibitors, from a variety ofsources, appear to intervene in different steps of thecomplement cascade, Bell said.

Anti-complement discoveries might lead to a new area of anti-inflammatory therapy, he said.

In another line of the company's research, tissue engineering intransgenic pigs might provide hearts, kidneys, lungs and liversto serve as bridge organs before human donors are located, orperhaps as long-term options in combination with anti-rejection drugs.

Alexion is collaborating with different academic groups oncreating transgenic animals and devising anti-T cell technologyto avoid rejection episodes, Bell said.

He added that universal donor pig endothelial cells are beingexplored as an adjunct to coronary angioplasty, since openingarteries with the angioplasty balloon can also destroy thesecells, which are responsible for keeping platelets fromadhering, keeping the vessels relaxed and stopping white bloodcells from entering the cell wall.

Universal donor capillary endothelial cells or patients' owncells, might also be engineered to deliver therapeutic proteinssystemically, Bell added.

Finally, Bell said Alexion is interested in collaborating withcorporate partners on screening anti-inflammatories and anti-infectives.

The company's original name, Udec, stood for universal donorendothelial cells, but was changed in the fall to reflect its widerfocus.

-- Nancy Garcia Associate Editor

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