Advantagene closes a $14.2M I/O raise through NCS

Prostate cancer biotech Advantagene has raised a little over $14 million for its experimental immune-oncology med, although it has had to use an “alternative” financier.

The Auburndale, MA-based biotech said today that the Series A funds were raised solely from National Securities Corporation (NCS) via convertible preferred stock.

This firm, Advantagene says, helps set up and structures “financing alternatives for emerging growth companies,” and marks a different strategy from many upstarts who raise early funds from life science portfolio venture firms or Big Pharmas.

This also follows Advantagene's convertible debt financing late last year, which was worth $2.2 million.

The money will go toward pushing on with its pivotal Phase III trial of ProstAtak (GMCI for prostate cancer), under an FDA SPA (that was granted back in 2011) in newly diagnosed localized prostate cancer for patients choosing radiation therapy. 

Some of the cash pot will also be used to complete a Phase IIb trial in localized prostate cancer patients choosing active surveillance and to support clinical activities in brain, lung and pancreatic cancers. The company also said in a statement that it plans to “advance the development of commercial scale manufacturing.”

There are already a number of new, big-selling prostate cancer drugs on the market, including Janssen’s Zytiga, Medivation/Astellas/Pfizer’s ($PFE) Xtandi, and Sanofi’s ($SNY) Jevtana.

But Advantagene says its researchers “have taken another approach entirely,” for instance, by preventing prostate cancer recurrence and death. ProstAtak is designed as an "off-the-shelf" drug to kill tumor cells and stimulate a vaccine effect against the patient’s specific tumor--in essence activating the patient’s own immune system to prevent tumor recurrence.

This sort of cancer vaccine approach had been attempted by Dendreon ($DNDN) and Valeant’s ($VRX) Provenge, which is made by a patient’s own immune cells--but failed to take off due to pricing pressures, manufacturing issues and new oral meds.

The biotech still believes its approach can better all of these treatments, as its drug has a “benign safety profile” that it says could allow docs to combine its med with “often toxic standard of care cancer treatment regimens,” which may include other immuno-oncology approaches such as checkpoint inhibitors, to “augment the effectiveness of these therapies.”

“The introduction of immuno-oncology approaches to treat cancer patients offers the first significant shift in the cancer treatment paradigm in decades and will, over the next few years, greatly improve the odds of beating cancer for many patients,” explained Dr. Estuardo Aguilar-Cordova, chairman and CEO of Advantagene. 

“Our differentiated Gene Mediated Cytotoxic Immunotherapy (GMCI) platform technology for the treatment of solid tumors is among the most broadly applicable and promising technologies in this field. Our off-the-shelf therapy stimulates a precise, robust, durable and personalized systemic immune response against a patient's cancer thereby bolstering their ability to fight the disease.”