Agensys pulls in $41M for cancer drugs

Santa Monica, Calif.-based Agensys, a biotech focused on new cancer drugs, raised $41 million in a fourth funding round. Duquesne Capital Management and JAFCO led the round, joined by Innovis Investments, Nextech Venture, Bear Stearns Health Innoventures, Alta Partners, HBM BioVentures, Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch & Cie, H&Q Life Sciences Investments, and Orbimed Associates.

Agensys develops monoclonal antibodies designed to target surface proteins or other molecules that specifically identify tumor cells. Its first drug candidate, AGS-PSCA, targets a protein known as prostate stem-cell antigen, which the company claims is found in a majority of patients with prostate, pancreatic and bladder cancer. In conjunction with Merck, Agensys launched an early stage phase I trial of AGS-PSCA in 2005 that apparently demonstrated the drug’s safety, although the company hasn’t had much to say about the drug since.

In January, the company also struck an agreement with Seattle Genetics to co-develop “antibody-drug conjugates,” which combine a toxic chemotherapy drug with an antibody designed to help it hone in on a targeted tumor.

Agensys was founded in 1997 as UroGenesys, but updated its name in 2001. It had previously raised $62.1 million in three rounds.