Ixsys Inc. announced today that it has received $6.83 million inits latest round of private financing.

The San Diego company will apply the proceeds towardcontinued R&D on its high-affinity peptides and monoclonalantibodies for therapeutic applications.

New investors in the company include Hancock VenturePartners, Biotechnology Investments Ltd. and New York LifeInsurance Co. They joined Medicus Partners, Domain Associatesand Delphi Bioventure Partners, which provided about $3.8million in seed capital to Ixsys in August 1991.

"We are very pleased to have attracted such well-respectedinvestment firms," said James Tretter, Ixsys' president andchief executive officer.

Although Ixsys thinks of itself as "more of a peptide companythan an antibody company," according to Michael Hanifin, vicepresident of business development, it's the antibody work thathas until now grabbed the most attention. For instance, Ixsyshas had a research relationship with Bristol-Myers Squibb fordeveloping monoclonals against certain tumor antigens since1991, Hanifin said. The two companies formalized theirresearch agreement in October 1992.

As well, Ixsys and Biosite Diagnostics Inc. of San Diego agreedlast August to spend two years using Ixsys' codon-basedmutagenesis technology to improve the specificity of Biosite'smonoclonal antibody-based diagnostics. Biosite is alreadymarketing a MAb-based screening test, called Triage, for sevencommon drugs of abuse. It detects in 10 minutes PCP,benzodiazapines, cocaine, THC, amphetamines, opiates andbarbiturates, explained Gunars Valkirs, Biosite's vice presidentof R&D.

The codon-based mutagenesis allows scientists to alter theantigen-binding, or complementarity-determining regions(CDRs), of an antibody molecule three nucleotides at a time. Themethod produces antibodies with affinities that are about 15times higher than those produced by the human body'simmune system. Biosite is using the technology to "change boththe affinity and the specificity " of its drug-abuse MAbs forfuture products.

Biosite is also taking advantage of Ixsys' in vitro immunizationtechnology, which it licensed from the University of Californialast August. The technology generates antigen-specific humanmonoclonals in vitro by immunizing human spleen cells withantigens-of-interest.

"The ultimate goal is not to take an existing antibody, clone itand then modify it, but to clone it directly from spleen cells,"said Valkirs.

Codon-based mutagenesis is also playing a major role in Ixsys'development program on high-affinity therapeutic peptides.Hanafin said that in the past few months, Ixsys has "madesignificant progress" in its program to produce, optimize andscreen large peptide libraries for candidate therapeutic entities.

The results are very preliminary, Hanifin told BioWorld, andcome from the company's various research collaborations.Using Ixsys' M13 bacterial phage system as a cloning vehicleand codon-based mutagenesis, the researchers have managedto identify candidate peptide drugs from its peptide librarieswithin 24 hours.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

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