12:00 AM
 | 
Jun 05, 2006
 |  BioCentury  |  Finance

Ebb & Flow

But investors keep returning. This quarter, ISIS has attracted both a new face (Symphony Capital) and a familiar one (Acqua) to its story. Both investors say their due diligence suggests a strong pipeline of second-generation antisense compounds aimed at big indications.

Last week, Azimuth Opportunity, which is advised by Acqua Capital, made a $75 million equity financing commitment to the company. Acqua is no stranger to ISIS, having invested in the company’s $27.3 million private placement in March 2000.

"We’ve been an investor in the company on and off for years," said Acqua’s Isser Elishis. "Antisense has its critics and it’s been around for a long time, but Stan will get this right - it’s just a matter of time and money." Stanley Crooke is ISIS’s chairman and CEO.

In particular, Elishis has his eye on ISIS 301012, a second-generation antisense inhibitor of ApoB-100 that is in Phase II testing to treat elevated cholesterol. In April, interim data from the three low-dose groups showed that ISIS 301012 reduced ApoB-100, LDL and triglycerides (see BioCentury, May 1).

ISIS 301012 is being developed within Symphony GenIsis, an entity funded by Symphony Capital. Under that April deal, the merchant bank and undisclosed investors formed and invested $75 million in Symphony GenIsis to develop ISIS 301012 and two preclinical diabetes compounds. ISIS has an option to repurchase the compounds.

"If the cholesterol compound alone gets through, it will transform ISIS," said Elishis.

Like Elishis, Symphony’s Mark Kessel said the clinical data around ISIS 301012 were "compelling. We’ve done extensive due diligence, including internal work and contacting thought leaders in the therapeutic areas we invest in. There was a good case for us to make an investment."

With the cholesterol compound off the books, any draw down from the Acqua facility probably would be used to develop ISIS 113715 to treat Type II diabetes, according to EVP and CFO Lynne Parshall. Phase II data for the second-generation antisense inhibitor of PTP-1B mRNA are expected this month.

Phasing out risk

Last week saw a pair of early stage companies each pull in more than $40 million in their series B rounds. The key for both companies was the ability to offer Phase I compounds that have reduced risk profiles.

FoldRx on Tuesday raised $43 million from Texas Pacific Group; Alta Partners; Novartis BioVenture Fund; HealthCare Ventures; and Fidelity Biosciences. The company’s lead compound is Fx-1006A, a small molecule that stabilizes transthyretin (TTR) protein and therefore inhibits misfolding and aggregation. The company hopes to start a pivotal trial in familial amyloid polyneuropathy (FAP) this year.

President and CEO Richard Labaudiniere told Ebb & Flow the company has seen stabilization of transthyretin in a Phase I study. "People are convinced that if you stabilize the protein, you’ll affect the disease," he said. "Having proof of concept in Phase I was very exciting to our investors."

On Wednesday, Proteolix announced a $45...

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