Diatech Inc., a developer of peptide-based imaging andtherapeutic products for cardiovascular diseases, was toannounce today that it has raised $5.2 million in a first roundof venture financing.

Lead investors are Burr, Egan, Deleage & Co., Medical SciencePartners L.P. and the Sprout Group.

Diatech, which was formed in March 1990, raised $2 million ina seed round with Burr, Egan and Medical Science Partners.

The New Londonderry, N.H., company will use part of the fundsto move its lead compound, SP-4 for imaging atheroscleroticplaque, into Phase I trials this year.

SP-4 is a peptide that corresponds to a sequence on the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) molecule that binds to atheroscleroticplaque, said Richard Dean, president and chief executive. LDLcarries cholesterol and deposits it on the artery wall, leading toplaque buildup.

The peptide is tagged with technetium-99m. Diatechexclusively licensed the technology from New EnglandDeaconess Hospital in Boston, which has filed for four patents.The peptide was discovered by Dr. Robert Lees, director of thehospital's arteriosclerosis center. He is chairman of Diatech'sscientific advisory board and a co-founder and director of thecompany.

Competition for an atherosclerotic plaque imaging productcomes from Centocor Inc.'s Capiscint, a monoclonal antibody-based product that is in early trials.

Dean left Centocor, where he was director ofradiopharmaceutical research and development, to formDiatech in 1990. The company's chief scientist, John Lister-James, also came from Centocor. He is an expert in technetium-99m chemistry.

"We originally thought MAbs were the best way to do imaging,"said Dean. But MAbs have a some drawbacks, he said. One isthe FDA's concerns about immune response. MAbs also arelarger than peptides and take longer to clear from the blood, soit takes longer to derive images using MAbs.

Peptides also may get faster regulatory review, Dean said,because they are synthetic molecules that could be examinedby the FDA's drug division, which has moved faster to approvedrugs than the biologics division.

SP-4 also has therapeutic potential for treating atherosclerosis,said Dean. By sticking to plaque, it prevents continued depositsof cholesterol by LDL. "If you flood the system with SP-4, itshould block the interaction of LDL with plaque and give theplaque time to develop a fibrous cap and become less fragile,"he said. Such plaque is less likely to break off and block avessel.

Diatech is researching peptide-based imaging products forthrombosis, infection and cancer.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

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