Arix Bioscience is pleased to announce that it has participated along with renowned international healthcare investors in a placement with Verona Pharma plc, the drug development company focused on first-in-class medicines to treat respiratory diseases. Verona has announced publicly that it has successfully secured funding commitments to raise gross proceeds of approximately US$63.3 million through the placement. Verona’s full announcement can be viewed here.

The financing has attracted highly experienced investors in the US and UK including Vivo Capital, OrbiMed, Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners, Fidelity, New Enterprise Associates, Novo Ventures, Abingworth and Tekla.

Verona is an AIM-listed company that is developing novel inhaled medications to treat respiratory diseases with significant unmet medical needs, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis and, potentially, asthma. Its lead product, RPL554, is a dual-acting phosphodiesterase (PDE)3 and phosphodiesterase (PDE)4 inhibitor, two enzymes known to be of importance in the development and progression of immunological respiratory diseases. According to Verona, targeting these enzymes means that it has anti-muscarinic bronchodilator effects and anti-inflammatory effects, which is currently only available in combination therapy.

Verona has said in its announcement to AIM today that it is raising this finance to fund the next stage of development, notably Phase 2b trials in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease “COPD” to examine the efficacy of RPL554 on top of standard of care. This will bring the programme to Phase 3-ready, which we believe this will be a significant value inflection point for the company, as there have been few new drugs for COPD, and patients remain under-served.

In its announcement today Verona stated: ” The company’s lead drug, RPL554, is a first-in-class dual phosphodiesterase PDE3/PDE4 inhibitor with both bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory properties that has the potential to become a novel treatment for patients with obstructive lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis and potentially asthma. Furthermore, based on data generated to date, Verona Pharma believes RPL554 can provide relevant health economic benefits in a commercial setting.”

“We have made significant clinical progress with RPL554. This drug has shown the potential to become an important novel and complementary treatment option for patients with COPD, a debilitating and progressive disease that is still among the four leading causes of death globally. “The funds raised from the Placing will allow the company to focus on conducting a comprehensive Phase 2b clinical trial programme for nebulised RPL554 as a potential treatment for patients with COPD. We will also explore in the clinic for the first time the use of RPL554 as a novel treatment for cystic fibrosis expanding the potential of drug into another respiratory disease where there remains a significant unmet need. This follows on from the compelling data we have generated in translational, preclinical models of this disease.”

Jan-Anders Karlsson, CEO of Verona Pharma

About COPD: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (“COPD”) is an umbrella term describing a collection of debilitating lung diseases characterised by airflow limitation. It is usually progressive and associated with an enhanced inflammatory response. According to PhRMA it is the third leading cause of death in the US and costs the healthcare system $50bn. The latest World Health Organisation (“WHO”) estimates (2004), currently 64 million people have COPD and 3 million people died of COPD. WHO predicts that COPD will become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2030.