Argos rakes in $17.5M more to wrap up PhIII for cancer drug

Argos CEO Jeff Abbey

Argos Therapeutics is working to get out from under the shadow of Dendreon ($DNDN) and its disappointing Provenge, and now the North Carolina company has the cash it needs to get its kidney cancer candidate through Phase III and prove the promise of its dendritic cell platform.

The biotech landed another $17.5 million for its Series E round, bringing the grand total to $60 million and setting the stage for Argos to prove that its AGS-003 can safely and effectively treat metastatic renal cell carcinoma.

Like Dendreon's poorly received Provenge injection, Argos' drug uses a patient's own dendritic cells to fight cancer growth, but unlike its forebear, Argos uses sampled RNA to load the cells with tumor-specific antigens, a process CEO Jeff Abbey said sets his company apart and makes AGS-003 stand out.

For months, Provenge's high-profile market flop made things tough for Argos at the fundraising table, and Abbey told FierceBiotech in August that "there remains, if not a bias, a skepticism against personalized cell therapy for cancer because of Dendreon."

Back then, Abbey said Argos needed to hit the $60 million mark if it wanted to get through Phase III on its own. Now, with that money in the bank, AGS-003 is ready to be judged on its own merits, and Argos has been staffing up to prepare for the long haul of late-stage development.

In putting together its August close of $42.5 million, Argos handed over Russian rights to AGS-003 to Pharmstandard International in exchange for a $30 million investment and gave Korean exclusivity to that country's Green Cross. The company's investors include Forbion Capital, TVM Capital, Lumira Capital, Intersouth Partners, Caisse de depot et placement de Quebec, Morningside Group and Aurora Funds.

- read the announcement