Durham’s Argos Therapeutics raises another $17.5 million

dranii@newsobserver.comNovember 20, 2013 

Durham drug-development company Argos Therapeutics has extended its fundraising streak by raising an additional $17.5 million in venture capital, pushing its total haul this year to $60 million.

Argos has earmarked the new infusion of cash for further development of its promising experimental drug for kidney cancer.

CEO Jeff Abbey said in a phone interview that the latest funding “shows a tremendous amount of confidence in Argos and our ongoing Phase 3 trial – and our chances of success.”

The funding also provides a cushion for the company, which has more than 90 employees, while it considers plans for manufacturing and selling its treatment for late-stage kidney cancer. If all goes as planned, Argos would be in position to seek regulatory approval for the drug in 2016.

Because it will be a “personalized therapy,” Argos plans to handle manufacturing itself.

“No one has really done this yet commercially, so we’re the experts,” Abbey said.

The drug is “personalized” because it is developed from a sample of a patient’s own tumor and white blood cells. The resulting drug, when injected, would trigger the creation of “killer cells” that are primed to attack the individual patient’s tumor.

No decision has been made on where the company would locate its manufacturing facility.

“We are certainly looking locally, but we are also looking at other options,” Abbey said.

Earlier this year, Argos launched a Phase 3 study of its experimental kidney cancer treatment that ultimately is expected to include 450 patients. A Phase 2 test found that 21 patients who would be expected to survive an average of 14.7 months instead survived 30.2 months on Argos’ experimental drug, and one-third of those patients lived more than four years.

Argos, which is privately held, has no products on the market. In addition to the kidney cancer treatment, it is developing a personalized HIV treatment that is being funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Argos hoped to raise about $75 million via a public offering of stock in early 2012, but a lackluster market caused it to shift to raising additional venture capital. The company raised $25 million in April 2012 and then embarked on another round of fundraising last fall.

In August, Argos raised $42.5 million in its fifth round of venture capital financing. The $17.5 million in new funding announced Wednesday is an extension of that round. The $60 million raised by Argos this year is by far the most venture capital raised by a Triangle company in 2013.

Argos reported that its latest funding came from an unidentified new investor plus existing investors, a group that includes Triangle venture capital firms Intersouth Partners and Aurora Funds.

Argos has raised a total of $174 million in venture capital, underlining the high cost of drug development.

“We will have to raise more at some point before the middle of 2016,” Abbey said.

Ranii: 919-829-4877

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