Ablaris Therapeutics completed a second closing of its Series A financing round for gross proceeds of $1.2 million, with aggregate gross proceeds of $2.9 million to date. Use of proceeds includes up-front licensing payments and expenses associated with preparation for a Phase I clinical trial in obesity, expected in the second half of this year. Direct costs for the Phase I study are expected to be borne by licensor the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Arrowhead Research invested $1.3 million in the offering, boosting its stake in the company from 55% to 64%. Arrowhead launched Ablaris in December 2010 to commercialize a technology that specifically kills blood vessels feeding white fat tissue. The platform was developed by Wadih Arap, M.D., Ph.D., and Renata Pasqualini, Ph.D., for use in weight loss and obesity-related metabolic conditions.
Compounds being developed by Ablaris with this technology are administered via subcutaneous injection. In animal studies, weight loss was due to a combination of destruction of fat and a decrease in appetite and resulting food intake. It is believed that the latter is caused by natural chemical interactions between the diminishing fat and the central nervous system rather than a direct action of the compound on the brain.
The primary mode of action is believed to be at the site of the fat tissue rather than the central nervous system. Many obesity drug candidates have targeted the brain and, therefore, have had difficult regulatory paths due to the complexity of altering brain chemistry and off-target effects.
Between October 2010 and February 2011, the FDA doled out negative responses for three antiobesity therapies. Arena Pharmaceuticals and Eisai were asked to provide additional clinical and nonclinical data as well as conduct another clinical trial with their candidate lorcaserin, a serotonin 2C receptor agonist. Arena was forced to nix about 25% of its staff, or 66 employees.
Vivus Pharmaceuticals was asked for clinical, labeling, REMS, safety-update, and drug-scheduling data, but no request was made for further clinical studies. Last to fall was Orexigen, with the agency asking for an additional clinical trial with its candidate Qnexa. Orexigen subsequently cut 40% of staff, or 23 employees.