A $32 million cash injection has given a boost to biotech Starpharma's plans to carry out advanced tests of a treatment for a common bacterial infection in women.
The Melbourne-based company raised the cash through a share placement to overseas and domestic investors, picking up a major new foreign shareholder in the process.
Chief executive Dr Jackie Fairley said the new investor, who won't officially be revealed until next week, contributed a "sizeable portion" of the over-subscribed share placement.
Starpharma intends to raise another $3 million through a share purchase plan with eligible shareholders next week.
Dr Fairley said $16 million would be put towards phase III clinical trials of Starpharma's VivaGel treatment for women with bacterial vaginosis.
The remainder will be spent on using Starpharma's stable of dendrimers, a type of polymer, to improve existing drugs and agrochemicals.
Part of the $16 million for VivaGel will be used to expedite an existing clinical trial examining how often the treatment needs to be used to clear up bacterial vaginosis.
The second VivaGel trial, due to start in 2012, will test how it should be used to prevent the infection returning.
Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal infections among women.
If left untreated it can cause infertility, miscarriage, stillbirths and an increased risk of HIV infection.
Earlier clinical trials have found VivaGel can clear the infection if used daily for a week and prevent it from returning when used a few times a week.
If the latest trials are successful and VivaGel wins regulatory approval, it could be used as an alternative to antibiotics in treating the infection.
Dr Fairley said there was the potential for $350 million in annual global sales of VivaGel as a treatment and a further $1 billion as a preventative application.
"Women with bacterial vaginosis often take six or eight rounds of antibiotics a year, which of course no one wants to do," she said.
"It's the most common vaginal infection world wide but it's really over represented in the US population.
"About 29 per cent of women aged 14 to 49 in the US are infected."
The remainder of the $32 million will be spent on projects with pharma and agrochemical companies using dendrimers to improve the effectiveness of their products.
It is also carrying out work in house on adding a dendrimer to the $3 billion cancer drug docetaxel so it no longer has to be mixed with a detergent before being injected in patients.
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