Avalon Medical Partners announced Monday the close of thefirst part of a $6 million round of series A and B convertiblepreferred financing for Microcide Pharmaceuticals.

The start-up company plans to capitalize on scientific advancesin microbial genetics and molecular biology to develop newclasses of anti-microbial agents to treat clinically importantpathogens that are resistant to multiple and broad-spectrumantibiotics.

The partners in the financing included Avalon, Kleiner PerkinsCaufield and Byers, Institutional Venture Partners and SandozPharmaceuticals Corp., the U.S. affiliate of Swiss-based SandozLtd. Sandoz formed an alliance with Avalon about 18 monthsago to investigate additional opportunities for investing in thebiopharmaceutical arena.

And for Microcide, which will be located temporarily in PaloAlto, Calif., that opportunity is to come up with noveltherapeutics to attack multiple drug resistant microbes.

According to Keith Bostian, Microcide's new chief operatingofficer and one of its founders, the pharmaceutical industry hashad "stunning success" over the past 30 years in creating newbroad-spectrum antibiotics. But as a consequence, "thescientific community grew complacent about the continuingmedical importance of bacterial infectious diseases and theconsequences of bacterial resistance.

Now we are witnessing the emergence of old microbes, such astuberculosis, threatening to cause new epidemics."

David Schnell, a founder of Microcide and the director ofSandoz Pharmaceutical's venture capital activities, explainedthat the company's short-term goals will be to developproducts for which clinical data are already available but which"may not be attractive" to pharmaceutical companies todevelop for financial reasons.

The interim goal, according to Schnell, is to create chemicalderivatives of existing anti-microbial agents "where we canimprove their therapeutic profile by using computer modelingand smart chemistry."

And in the long-term, Microcide intends to focus on thetherapeutic advantages of blocking virulence factors in the host-- a target-based approach to treating infection.

"We'll elucidate the target biologically to understand its role inthe process of pathogenesis," Schnell said. Unlike the traditionalapproach to discovering antibiotics, which is to screenmicroorganisms first, and only secondarily take a rationalapproach to understanding the biological mode of action, theMicrocide approach will be to "develop novel antibiotics basedon an understanding of host-pathogen interactions," said KevinKinsella, general partner of Avalon.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

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