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Financing brings Tempo into position for nanoparticle work
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Tempo Pharmaceuticals expects $12.1 million in Series A financing to provide sufficient resources for advancing preclinical work on nanoparticle-based drugs to human clinical trials. Tempo is focusing on oncology, autoimmune, and inflammatory diseases.
"We're very focused on moving the technology into people as quickly as possible," says Alan Crane, CEO of Tempo and a venture partner at Polaris Venture Partners. Funding came from four sources: Polaris, Venrock, Lux Capital, and William Rastetter, a Venrock partner and former CEO of Biogen Idec, who invested personally.
Crane says the Series A follows $2 million in seed money from December 2006, provided by Polaris and the original partners. That money enabled Tempo to hire staff and obtain an exclusive license from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to its core technology, which it calls Nanocell. "We believe that we have the potential to really play a broad leadership role in the application of nanotechnology to pharmaceuticals," says Crane.
Although Crane acknowledges pharmaceutical uses for nanotechnology are in their infancy, he sees promise that nanotechnology will affect the drug industry broadly within the next five to ten years by making drugs more efficacious and safe. "There's a lot of what we've tried to achieve done other ways in the pharmaceutical industry, without the help of this new technology," says Crane. Animal testing has already shown good results using existing cancer drugs in a nanotechnology format, he says, by "dramatically inhibiting tumor growth, prolonging survival of animals it was tested in, and improving the safety profile of the drug."
Crane says Tempo designs nanoparticles that focus cancer drugs on tumors, not normal tissue. "Problem one is getting to the right place. Problem two is getting there at the right time with the right rate of release," he says. Tempo's technology combines drugs for multiple actions by exploiting the biology of the tumor itself. The first drug, located on the outside of a nanoparticle that's too big to get into healthy tissue, has an anti-angiogenesis action that attacks new blood vessels growing into the tumor. Without blood vessels to allow leakage, the second drug, a chemotherapy agent, is trapped inside the tumor to do its work.
The "simple elegance" of Tempo's approach appealed to Venrock, says Bryan Roberts, managing general partner. "I have seen over the last five years a large number of targeted delivery drug improvement technologies out there," says Roberts. "Whether they come under the guise of nanobiotechnology or drug delivery, pick your moniker of the day, none of them grabbed my attention nearly as Tempo does."
Roberts also praises the Tempo team and Crane, noting Crane's recruiting abilities and track record, which includes work at Momenta Pharmaceuticals and Millennium Pharmaceuticals. Crane says Tempo's group of about 15 employees combines experience in major pharmaceutical companies and building biotech companies. "We often talk about the technology, but you have to make something of the technology, and that really comes from having a great team."
The Tempo team is working under a business model that combines solo work and partnerships. "The nature of this technology is such that we can apply it to our own drugs, but we can apply it to other people's drugs as well," Crane says. Tempo can build a deep pipeline because the Nanocell may be simultaneously applied to patented or off-patent drugs, avoiding massive equity dilution, believes Crane. "You really have to have outstanding technology, but you really have to have a business model that relates to that technology and enables significant value creation."