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Still Seeking Pharma Partner, Phoenix Bio Adds $1M in Angel Funding

Xconomy Texas — 

San Antonio — Phoenix Biotechnology, which has been developing an experimental plant-based drug for cancer for more than a decade, has added about $1 million in new funding, according to a securities filing and the company’s top scientist.

The San Antonio-based biotech is using the money to continue research and operations for developing its cancer drug, PBI-05204, which Phoenix believes may also have applications in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, according to Phoenix chief science officer Robert Newman. Since it was founded in 2003, Phoenix has spent $22 million from private investors, and CEO Crandell Addington said last year the company had hoped find a larger drug company to acquire it or merge with before raising additional funds.

As the company has continued developing PBI-05204 in cancer, Phoenix also hoped that a preclinical application in Alzheimer’s disease might entice an acquirer or a partner. Despite taking in new funding, Newman wrote in an e-mail that Phoenix is still in conversations with several companies about a possible deal. The company’s funding, including the new round, came from accredited angel investors in 25 states and seven countries, Newman wrote.

Phoenix has ongoing research into different applications of PBI-05204, too, Newman wrote, including at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, MD; the University of L’Aquila in Italy; the University of Texas at San Antonio; MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston; Mayo Clinic; the University of Nebraska; and Southern Methodist University.

PBI-05204 is an extract of the oleander plant, a flowering shrub that can be toxic in high doses. Phoenix says it developed a safe dosing regimen during a Phase 1 trail, and has been studying the drug as a cancer treatment in combination with a chemotherapy. A Phase 2 trial in pancreatic cancer appears to be ongoing, despite the company’s hope it might wrap up in late 2017.

During separate animal studies, Phoenix said it discovered the drug may also increase the levels of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which some researchers believe may play a role in limiting cognitive decline, though its role is not fully understood. You can read more about Phoenix’s work on developing the experimental drug here.

A securities filing showed Phoenix added $879,000 in funding this month. Newman wrote the company added another $166,000 on top of that.