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Apoxis finds funding for cancer cure research

Novo Nordisk is one of Apoxis's new investors. Novo Nordisk

Apoxis SA, a Swiss biopharmaceutical company targeting cancer and autoimmune diseases, has won new investment from Denmark, Sweden and France.

In its second round of financing – worth SFr23.3 million ($19.6 million) – Apoxis attracted a new investor: Novo Nordisk Biotech Fund of Copenhagen, a Danish biotechnology fund that belongs to Novo Nordisk A/S.

The fund joins existing investors Banexi Ventures Partners of Paris and Sweden’s HealthCap, based in Stockholm.

Apoxis raised a first round of venture capital of SFr11.75 million from Healthcap and Banexi in March 2003.

The young company is hoping to develop a line of drugs based on proteins that regulate the death of cells. One of these proteins, the MegaFasL, has shown promising results in hard-to-treat cancers.

In another internally developed programme, Apoxis has demonstrated ability to inhibit apoptosis (cell death) in animal models with potential applications in many autoimmune diseases.

Since all its drug candidates are in the so-called pre-clinical phase, it will be several years before the treatment can be tested on humans.

Income generation

The firm will generate income in the meantime via an out-licensing programme, providing drug candidates to other companies for a licence fee and/or royalties. It says it will also run an in-licensing program.

“We are delighted to have received this level of financial support from both existing and new investors,” said Apoxis CEO Dr Jean-Pierre Rosat in a statement.

“We believe that obtaining significant Novo Nordisk investment represents strong scientific and business validation for our technology and projects. This new round of financing will allow us to bring molecules into clinic, while consolidating our project portfolio.”

Apoxis represents a valuable addition to Novo Nordisk’s portfolio of venture capital investments, the firm said in a statement.

“The investment underscores Novo Nordisk’s focus on biopharmaceuticals and our willingness to invest in companies with new and promising approaches,” added Johannes Jensen, Vice President of Novo Nordisk Biotech Fund.

Apoxis uses and develops certain technologies that were developed earlier by Apotech SA, founded by Professor Jürg Tschopp and his colleagues. Apotech subsequently signed over the intellectual property for these technologies to Apoxis.

Tschopp is a leading scientist and world-renowned expert in the field of cell death, inflammation and the biology of tumours. He presently holds a position as full professor at Lausanne University’s Institute of Biochemistry.

by Valerie Thompson

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