July 09, 2008


D.E. Shaw Leads $60M Round For Portola

Venture capital, hedge and mutual fund investors are fueling Portola Pharmaceuticals Inc. with $60 million more in Series C financing to help drive two cardiovascular drugs through large Phase IIb trials.The financing, led by hedge fund D.E. Shaw, a new investor, brings Portola's total equity financing to $218 million, said Chief Financial Officer Mardi Dier. The South San Francisco, Calif.-based company, formed in 2003, also has raised $20 million in debt, Dier said. Dier declined to disclose Portola's valuation, saying only that the company is pleased with the outcome of this round.In addition to D.E. Shaw, the round also drew new investors Adage Capital Management, Apothecary Capital, Janus Capital and PAC-Link BioVentures.All previous investors also took part, including Abingworth Management, Advanced Technology Ventures, AllianceBernstein, Alta Partners, Brookside Capital, CIDC Consulting, Frazier Healthcare Ventures, Goldman Sachs, IBT Management Corp., MPM Capital, Prospect Venture Partners, Sutter Hill Ventures, Teachers' Private Capital and T. Rowe Price.This financing is an extension of a $70 million Series C that Portola raised in May 2007. At the time, the company had thoughts of going public as soon as this year. With the markets now sealed off, however, it is looking to 2009 for a possible public offering, according to Chief Executive Charles Homcy, but "this financing puts us in a solid position where we can get from here to there without worrying about an IPO."The round will fund trials beginning this year for its two most advanced products. One is an anticoagulant that directly blocks Factor Xa, a key instigator in the fibrin formation and platelet-activation processes.The drug would be an alternative to the blood-thinning agent Coumadin, used to prevent clotting in patients with the common heart-rhythm abnormality atrial fibrillation. Portola plans to test this drug in a Phase IIb study of 500 to 600 atrial fibrillation patients.Portola also is developing an anti-platelet drug that targets the same receptor as Plavix, the blockbuster drug sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Sanofi-Aventis, but does so more robustly and rapidly, according to Homcy.The company also will initiate a Phase IIb trial for this drug in 800 patients who are having coronary stents placed. In this study, patients will receive intravenous doses while on the catheter-lab table, a time when they are most at risk for a myocardial infarction, Homcy said. After the procedure, they will receive chronic doses to prevent clot formation.In 2010, Portola hopes to have both drugs ready for Phase III trials. It also intends to put three earlier-stage programs in the clinic in 2010. They include a drug that reverses the effects of Factor Xa inhibitors - Portola's, or others in development - a SYK-kinase inhibitor with potential against inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, and against cancers such as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and an aspirin substitute for patients who are intolerant to aspirin.No board seats are being added immediately, Dier said, but some new members may join later. Portola has about 70 employees.http://www.portola.com