Agensys Gets $42.8M Check-Up

Several months after launching its Series C fund-raising drive, cancer therapeutics company Agensys Inc. received a healthy check-up from investors, and instead of a lollipop, pocketed $42.8 million in new venture funding.

Bear Stearns Health Innoventures led the deal, which was announced last week and officially closed on Feb. 28. Orbimed Advisors and Alta Partners also signed on as co-leads. Other new investors included HBM Partners AG, Hambrecht & Quist Capital Management, Carnegie Kapitalforvaltning AB, BSI AG and ReqMed Co. Ltd. The company’s only existing institutional investor, Lombard Odier & Cie, also came on board again, as did several individual investors. JPMorgan H&Q acted as the placement agent on the deal.

Agensys is working to develop therapeutic human monoclonal antibodies that treat solid tumor cancers. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based firm first identifies potential drug targets using a proprietary technology and then works to distinguish which human antibodies could potentially treat these targets. The company has already discovered 11 targets for prostate, kidney, bladder, lung and colon cancers, says Aya Jakobovits, chief scientific officer and senior vice president at Agensys. The same process also identifies targets that could be successfully treated with vaccines or small molecule drugs.

The company will develop internally some of its antibody drug candidates while also partnering with other drug development firms, Jakobovits says. Agensys also plans to license select targets suitable for small molecule drugs and vaccines to other drug development companies, she adds. The company already has one partnership in place with biopharmaceutical company Abgenix Inc., as well as a separate agreement with biotech pioneer Genentech Inc.

“[Agensys is] taking a thoughtful approach to the validation of new targets,” says Farah Champsi, a managing director at Alta Partners. “This approach should yield a stream of products over the next several years.”

The new capital should last Agensys three years and enable the company to hit several significant milestones, including getting two of its antibody products into clinical trials, says Paul Kanan, the company’s chief financial officer. More specifically, the proceeds will be used to generate additional targets and antibodies, as well as equip and operate the company’s in-house antibody manufacturing plant.

This most recent round of funding should be Agensys’ last trip to the private market, Alta’s Champsi says.

Bear Stearns’ Elizabeth Czerepak, Orbimed General Partner Carl Gordon and Champsi all received Agensys board seats as part of the deal.

Alistair Christopher can be contacted