Australia's Paranta Biosciences raises A$7M for PhI of cystic fibrosis candidate

Australia's Paranta Biosciences has raised A$7 million to fund a Phase I clinical trial of cystic fibrosis treatment candidate PB01, adding to the A$16 million already raised since the company started operations in 2011, as hopes for biotech growth in the country get an official push.

A small number of new shareholders were added in the latest funding round, the company said in a release, adding that 80% of existing shareholders participated.

The funds are aimed at the PB01 candidate's two major commercial opportunities that "harness the unique therapeutic properties of follistatin, a naturally occurring glycoprotein which is a critical regulator of multiple cellular, inflammatory and fibrotic pathways within the body," the release said.

The main program is focused on inflammatory and fibrotic lung diseases, with cystic fibrosis serving as the lead indication. The company started enrolling patients in September for the an inhaled dose of PB01 in the Phase I trial of healthy male volunteers in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled three-stage study.

"The commencement of this first-in-human clinical study marks an important milestone in the development of inhaled PB01 as a novel and potentially transformative biotherapeutic for treating neutrophilic lung disease, including cystic fibrosis," said Ross Barrow, CEO of Paranta, in the release.

Paranta's second program is focused on intravenously administered PB01 as a novel chemotherapy-sensitizing agent for use in the treatment of cancer and is in a preclinical stage.

The profile of biotech in Australia has been raised recently with the election of former Goldman Sachs ($GS) banker Malcolm Turnbull in September as premier after defeating Tony Abbott in a Liberal Party challenge. He is seen as a major champion of biotech as a pillar of economic growth in the country.

In June, Merck ($MRK) CEO Ken Frazier lauded Australia's life sciences sector even as he gave his two cents on why Australians miss out on new drugs, entering a wider debate about the bang the country gets for the bucks it spends on research.

- here's the release