SAN DIEGO, Aug. 9 -- Nereus Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a pioneer in the use of marine microbial sources for the discovery and development of cancer therapeutics, today announced it raised $45 million from the private placement of its Series D-2 preferred stock. In conjunction with the financing, the company named Jesper Zeuthen, D.Sc. from Series D-2 lead investor BankInvest Biomedical Venture of Copenhagen to the Nereus board of directors. Also joining the board is Erich Platzer, M.D., investment advisor with HBM Partners, advisors to HBM BioVentures in Zurich, Switzerland.
Six new investors, BankInvest, Roche Venture Fund, Astellas Venture Management, Boston Life Science Venture Corporation, Taiwan Global Biofund and Eminent Venture Capital Corporation joined Nereus' current investors for this round of financing. Continuing principal investors include HBM BioVentures, Alta Partners, Forward Ventures, Advent International, GIMV, InterWest Partners and Pacific Venture Group.
"Nereus impressed us with its strong management team and unique clinical-stage, small molecule compounds that address large oncology markets," said Dr. Zeuthen, Managing Director of BankInvest Biomedical Venture. "Nereus has made significant progress with NPI-2358 and NPI-0052, two highly differentiated product candidates that we hope will demonstrate to be superior to current cancer therapies."
The proceeds from the financing will be drawn down in two tranches and used to complete Phase I and begin Phase II clinical trials for Nereus' two drug candidates. The first compound, NPI-2358, is being evaluated for the treatment of solid tumors and lymphomas in Phase I clinical trials. It is a potent, selective tumor vascular disrupting agent (VDA), a class of compounds that represents a novel approach to disrupting the intrinsic tumor blood flow, which leads to tumor cell death. NPI-2358 has favorable preclinical characteristics, such as a longer duration of action on tumor blood flow, activity against multi-drug resistant tumor cell lines and a favorable preclinical toxicology profile. The compound is one of 200 analogues that were produced after finding activity and novel chemistry from a marine fungal extract.
Nereus' proteasome inhibitor NPI-0052 is in Phase I trials for solid tumors, lymphomas and multiple myeloma. Preclinical studies indicate that this next generation compound may be superior to Velcade(R), with broader target inhibition, faster onset of action, higher potency, oral and intravenous availability, and activity against myeloma cells resistant to Velcade(R) (bortezomib, Millennium), Thalomid(R) (thalidomide, Celgene Corporation), Revlimid(R) (lenalidomide, Celgene Corporation) and steroid therapy. NPI-0052 was derived from a marine-obligate gram-positive actinomycete (Salinispora tropica).
"The funding Nereus has received from our new and current investors will enable us to finalize safety results from our ongoing trials and advance the programs to verify dosing regimens and obtain initial efficacy signals," said Kobi M. Sethna, President and CEO of Nereus Pharmaceuticals, Inc. He added, "Drs. Zeuthen and Platzer join our board and worldwide syndicate of investors and advisors at a very exciting time for the company. We welcome their
expertise in the development of cancer therapeutics as we advance our development programs."
Dr. Zeuthen is the Managing Director of BankInvest Biomedical Venture, which includes seven different venture funds focusing on biotech drug development supporting more than 30 portfolio companies in Europe and the U.S. In addition to having been Head of Research and Development at Novo Nordisk, he was also Head of Research at the Danish Cancer Society and currently serves as Chairman or Director for various biotech companies and research institutes. Dr. Zeuthen is also an Adjunct Professor of Biotechnology at the University of Copenhagen.
Dr. Platzer is an investment advisor with HBM Partners, advisors to HBM BioVentures in Zurich, Switzerland. Previously he was Head of Oncology at Roche. He has over ten years of operating experience in product development and marketing. Dr. Platzer also practiced as a physician and researcher for numerous years and was a member of the team that first purified G-CSF (Neupogen(R), filgrastim, Amgen). He graduated from the Medical School of the University of Erlangen, where he also received his Ph.D. He is currently Vice Chairman of MTM Laboratories and serves on the boards of Cylene, Locus and ProBiodrug.
About Nereus Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Nereus Pharmaceuticals pursues novel sources of chemical diversity to discover and develop new therapeutics. Using its unmatched expertise in marine microbiology to identify unique biologically active compounds, the Company has placed two oncology drug candidates in Phase I clinical trials in the past 12 months. NPI-2358, a tumor vascular disrupting agent, is being evaluated in patients with solid tumors and lymphomas, and the proteasome inhibitor NPI-0052 is being developed in patients with solid tumors, lymphomas and multiple myeloma. The Company's discovery portfolio also includes potential drug candidates for cancer, infectious diseases and inflammation. For more information, visit http://www.nereuspharm.com.