Macronex Inc. announced Friday that it raised $4.5 million in asecond round of private financing.

The company will use the money to further develop its drugdiscovery efforts using the macrophage as a therapeutic targetfor the treatment of acute and chronic inflammatory conditions,such as sepsis, arthritis and asthma.

The financing was led by Technology Leaders L.P., a venturecapital fund based in Wayne, Pa. Macronex of Morrisville, N.C.,raised $2 million in venture financing last year.

Macrophages are one of three key white blood cells thatinitiate, regulate and affect immune responses. Macrophages,which have major functions in the immune system, are knownas the immune system scavengers and are found in all tissues.

According to Paul Jones, company president, Macronex isscreening for peptide-based leads that will selectively down-regulate or up-regulate specific macrophage functionsimplicated in different diseases. Because macrophages arecrucial to body functions, when looking for a macrophageregulator, one cannot look for a general on/off signal becausecertain body functions may also be turned on or off as a resultof macrophage regulation.

For example, Jones said, a steroid can broadly suppressmacrophages, but can have dangerous side effects as a result,and therefore may not be an ideal drug.

"In acute inflammatory disorders, such as sepsis, there are a lotof companies pursuing strategies to block the activity ofcytokines produced by macrophages such as TNF-alpha," Jonessaid. "An advantage we have is our peptide inhibits theproduction of TNF-alpha."

The company holds a patent covering the use of the TNF-alpha-inhibiting peptide, exclusively licensed from Duke UniversityMedical Center and also have several other patent applicationspending. The company is working on about six compounds, andJones said, "Within five months we expect to hone in on two orthree which will help us narrow our focus for market targets."

Jones said Macronex has an opportunity to seize a leadershiprole in the area. "It's a challenging cell to work with, and wethink it can be exploited pharmaceutically."

Jones said he expects that the present financing should see thecompany through 1993 before the company needs to raisefurther capital, adding that its strategy is to developcollaborations with established pharmaceutical companies.

Macronex was formed in 1990 by Jones, formally an attorneywith Cooley, Godward, Huddleson & Tatum in Palo Alto, Calif.,Salvatore Pizzo of Duke University Medical Center and DolphAdams, also of Duke.

-- Michelle Slade Associate Editor

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