Tags: Cancer, Chapel Hill, diabetes, Durham, Heat Biologics, hepatitis C, North Carolina, pharmaceuticals, Raleigh, Research Triangle Park, Scynexis, Vascular Pharmaceuticals
Life sciences companies make pharma pitches, hope for hits with investors
Published on February 16th, 2012
Written by: Frank Vinluan
Life sciences companies presenting at CED’s Life Science Conference largely stuck to script. Prepared remarks. PowerPoint presentations. After 11 minutes on stage, another presenter took their place.
Immunotherapy company Heat Biologics broke from script and announced a $10 million series B round to complete one mid-stage study on its lead treatment candidate and two early stage trials for two other indications. The Chapel Hill, North Carolina drug developer wasn’t the only one seeking money, and it wasn’t the largest fundraising target by far. Durham-based SCYNEXIS is raising a $25 million to $30 million round. And University of North Carolina spinout Vascular Pharmaceuticals is raising up to $23 million. Here’s a rundown of the clinical programs the pharma companies are looking to finance.
Heat Bio. Heat’s lead drug program is an experimental lung cancer treatment in phase 2 clinical trials. Heat Bio’s proprietary technology reprograms tumor cells to pump out antigens to fight disease. CEO Jeff Wolf said that when the company was founded in 2008, the thought of prompting the immune system to fight cancer was a dream. But developments of immunotherapies from Dendreon (NASDAQ:DNDN) and Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) have shown that such treatments are possible. Heat Bio’s treatments are “off the shelf,” meaning that they don’t use patient cells to develop a personalized medicine treatment. That result is a treatment that costs less. Besides the lung cancer phase 2 study, Heat Bio plans phase 1 clinical trials for bladder and ovarian cancers. The $10 million fundraise would finance clinical development for all three indications.
SCYNEXIS. The Durham, North Carolina company started out 12 years ago as a service company to biotech companies. SCYNEXIS is still in that business. But the company is also developing drugs of its own. SCYNEXIS’ lead compound, SCY-635, is in phase 2 as a hepatitis C virus treatment. The company has raised $11 million so far in a round targeted to raise between $25 million and $30 million. The compound works by targeting the body’s innate immune response, which then inhibits replication of the virus. CEO Yves Ribelli said that SCY-635′s competition is a Novartis (NYSE:NVS) compound. But SCYNEXIS believes it has the better compound, one that could be the next blockbuster in hepatitis C.
Vascular Pharmaceuticals. The company, founded on University of North Carolina research, is developing novel diabetes treatments. Vascular’s lead compound regulates a signaling pathway shown to contribute to nephropathy, kidney damage that can occur in people who have diabetes. CEO Rich Shea said that Vascular’s compound doesn’t shut down the signaling pathway, rather it regulates it to normal. Vascular has a nonequity partnership with Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ). The company is raising up to $23 million in a series A round to take its lead compound through phase 2b trials. Then Vascular hopes to out-license or sell the compound to a company that can commercialize it. Shea said that the financing will be a combination of venture capital and corporate financing. Securing an investment of $20 million is no quick and easy matter for anyone in this economic environment. But Shea must already be far along in investment discussions with potential partners and investors. He concluded by saying: “We hope to have that finished in the next two months.”
Photo from Flickr user macman715