SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., April 28 /PRNewswire/ -- Receptor Biologix Inc., a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing newly discovered protein therapeutics to treat cancer, autoimmune, metabolic and other diseases, today announced it raised $33.6 million dollars in a Series A financing. Key venture investors included Skyline Ventures (who led the syndicate), Domain Associates, Essex Woodlands Health Ventures, MedImmune Ventures, Takeda Research Investment Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Takeda America Holdings Inc., and Northwest Technology Ventures.
Receptor BioLogix plans to use the financial proceeds to advance its lead therapeutic candidate, Dimercept(TM), a broad-spectrum anticancer agent representing a new class of biotherapeutics called Intron Fusion Proteins (IFP(TM)) that are capable of modulating disease pathways involved in cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
According to H. Michael Shepard, Ph.D., president and CEO of Receptor BioLogix and a co-discoverer of Herceptin(R), the immediate goals of the company are to complete multiple-dose Phase One clinical trials of Dimercept. Dimercept trials will focus on cancers characterized by high levels of over-expression and activation of members of the human epidermal growth factor (HER) family, which occurs in more than 50 percent of all solid cancers such as those of the lung, prostate and breast. The company hopes to start these clinical trials during mid-2006.
"Receptor BioLogix was founded to commercialize its OHSU-licensed and proprietary technologies. We will take advantage of our highly accessible pipeline of therapeutic protein candidates for cancer and other diseases," said Dr. Shepard. "Together with our financial partners, we have already made enormous progress toward realizing our vision of a new generation of protein therapeutics of which Dimercept is the proof-of-concept molecule."
"Receptor BioLogix embodies the kind of outstanding science, technology and business acumen we invest in," added Jeff Himawan, Ph.D., managing director of Essex Woodlands Health Ventures. "Essex Woodlands is pleased to join such a strong financing syndicate; and together with our co-investors, we look forward to playing an active role in helping the company realize the full commercial potential of Dimercept and related products."
A naturally occurring modulator of cell receptors, Dimercept is a protein that blocks activation of the entire family of EGF cell receptors, which are commonly over-expressed or otherwise activated in many cancers, and are predictive of a more aggressive disease state. Over-expressed in a virulent form of breast cancer, the well-known HER-2 receptor is part of this family.
The understanding of abnormal signaling by the human EGF receptor family has led to the development of several novel cancer drugs, including Erbitux(R) and Herceptin. These biologics have the advantage of low toxicity, but suffer from a narrow spectrum of activity. In contrast to other drugs that target this family, preclinical studies have shown Dimercept targets and blocks all members of this family's receptors: HER-1 (EGFR-1), HER-2, HER-3, and HER-4. This is important because expression of multiple receptor types occurs in cancer cells, and this multiple expression can cause resistance to any of the current agents. Receptor BioLogix has demonstrated that Dimercept is effective in animal models of prostate, gastric, ovarian and brain cancers -- all of which express multiple HER family members. The company is currently extending this work to lung cancer and other malignancies.
Receptor BioLogix's novel IFP/SCAN(TM) technology exploits the enormous progress in our understanding of the human genome and the key mechanisms that allow our 25,000 genes to express 100,000 proteins. Proteins are encoded by parts of the genetic code called "exons" interspersed with sequences called "introns", previously thought be functionless spacers. Recent work by Receptor BioLogix and academic institutions has shown that exon sequences can be fused with certain intron sequences to form important cell regulatory proteins. Receptor BioLogix has coined the term Intron Fusion Proteins (IFPs) to describe these unique regulatory proteins because they combine amino acids coded by exons and introns. Dimercept is an example of such a fusion protein. Applying its IFP/SCAN technology, Receptor BioLogix has identified more than 50 novel IFPs and is developing them for possible clinical application.
About Receptor BioLogix
Gail Clinton, Ph.D., and John Adelman, Ph.D. -- who both discovered Dimercept at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU), founded Receptor BioLogix with Dr. Shepard in July 2003. The company has an exclusive license from OHSU to commercialize Dimercept. Applying its IFP/SCAN technology, Receptor BioLogix has identified multiple IFP candidates that can be applied to cancer, autoimmune and multiple other disease categories, and will enter into partnerships with other companies to advance this technology.
Receptor Biologix Inc.