12:00 AM
Jul 10, 2006
 |  BioCentury  |  Finance

Ebb & Flow

Ambrx's $52 million series C round saw a variety of investors jump into the private company, including pension funds and hedges. The company maintains it was able to attract the unusual suspects because its site-directed pegylation platform can encompass the protein drug space, with the prospect for near-term revenues as well.

The round was led by Apposite Capital. Other new investors included the Dow Employees' Pension Plan and Union Carbide Employees' Pension Plan, as well as Glynn Ventures.

Existing investors also anted up, including Tavistock Life Sciences; Maverick Capital; 5AM Ventures; Versant Ventures; Aravis Ventures; and CMEA Ventures. Roche Venture Fund also participated under a December deal between Ambrx and Roche (SWX:ROCZ) to develop next-generation proteins and peptides, starting with pegylated interferon alpha (see BioCentury, Dec. 12, 2005).

"The one thing these investors have in common is that they're all looking for breadth," said Ambrx President and CEO Martin Mattingly. "Typically you have platform companies where investors can't see revenue for a long time, or specialty pharma plays where investors want near-term revenues. We offer both - our platform can literally apply to any protein drug and improve on it. That's a huge market and the growth will come from improving natural proteins, just like Amgen did with Neupogen and Roche did with interferon."

Indeed, any privately held company able to draw legitimate comparisons between its technology and AMGN's drugs is likely to attract the attention of investors that typically play in the public space. Other cases in point are Affymax and FibroGen, which are developing anemia compounds and have also attracted public investors.

In any case, Mattingly said Ambrx's goal was to have strategic investors. "We didn't do a roadshow or use a placement agent," he said. "Instead, we prospectively picked less than 10 firms that we thought would fit and approached them."

He noted that Apposite, which is based in London and was formed by Japanese financial services firm Mizuho Financial Group, "brings us access to Europe and Japan. Also, some of us at Ambrx have worked with the pension plan people before, and Dow has been following us for some time."

Ambrx's lead compound is ARX201, a pegylated human growth hormone for growth hormone deficiency. The company expects to start Phase...

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