September 09, 2008

VentureWire

Proteolix's $79M Year's 3rd Largest Biotech Haul

Proteolix Inc., which hopes to treat a variety of cancers with drugs that disrupt key cell functions, has raised $79 million in Series C financing to conduct Phase II and Phase III clinical trials.New investor Nomura Phase4 Ventures led the round, which closed on Aug. 22. Nomura was joined by new investor Westfield Capital Management and return backers Advanced Technology Ventures, Delphi Ventures, Latterell Venture Partners, U.S. Venture Partners and Vertical Group.The financing is the third-largest for a biotechnology company this year, trailing a $95 million debt round raised by EKR Therapeutics Inc. in March and a $100 million Series E equity round raised by Pacific Biosciences of California Inc. in July, according to VentureSource, a market tracker owned by VentureWire publisher Dow Jones & Co. Proteolix has now raised a total of $142 million since forming in 2003. Its valuation is undisclosed.The infusion brings Proteolix closer to a capitalizing on a multi-billion market. The round will enable it to complete enrollment of three Phase II trials of its lead drug, carfilzomib, which inhibits the proteasome, which controls the turnover of proteins in cells and plays important roles in regulating cell cycle, survival and stress response.Early research indicates that carfilzomib may help patients who are no longer benefiting from Velcade, which in 2003 became the first proteasome inhibitor to be approved in the U.S. Proteolix is testing carfilzomib as a single agent in two Phase II trials of patients with relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma.The first Phase II trial is enrolling multiple myeloma patients who have received prior Velcade, in addition to either of two other drugs, Revlimid or thalidomide, and are refractory to their last treatment. The second Phase II trial is enrolling patients who have received one to three prior therapies, including some who have received Velcade previously, and some who have not received that drug. Patients in the trial will be separately analyzed based on whether or not they have received Velcade.In mid 2009, Proteolix intends to launch a Phase III multiple myeloma trial, Ferguson said. It is also conducting a Phase Ib trial of the drug in relapsed multiple myeloma patients who are also being treated with two other drugs, Revlimid and dexamethasone.The world market for multiple myeloma alone is worth over $2 billion, according to Chief Financial Officer Matthew Ferguson, who said Proteolix owns full rights to all of its products, and has yet to decide if it will partner any of them."By raising a financing of this size, it puts us in a good position to make the right strategic choice for the company," he said. The company, which has not specified exactly how long the Series C will last, could raise its next financing through a private round or an initial public offering, depending on market conditions, he said.In addition to multiple myeloma, Proteolix is also testing carfilzomib in a Phase II trial in which the drug is used as a single agent against advanced solid tumors. In addition, it has Phase I studies ongoing in other indications, including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Proteolix has not disclosed how many patients it is enrolling in its clinical trials.The company, based in South San Francisco, Calif., also said Monday that Paul Hastings, chief executive of OncoMed Pharmaceuticals Inc., has joined the board. Proteolix has over 80 employees.