Financing brings Tempo into position for nanoparticle work

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.

Lisa Espenschade
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—TempoPharmaceuticals expects $12.1 million in Series A financing to providesufficient resources for advancing preclinical work on nanoparticle-based drugsto human clinical trials. Tempo is focusing on oncology, autoimmune, andinflammatory diseases.

"We're very focused on moving the technology into people asquickly as possible," says Alan Crane, CEO of Tempo and a venture partner at PolarisVenture Partners. Funding came from four sources: Polaris, Venrock, LuxCapital, and William Rastetter, a Venrock partner and former CEO of BiogenIdec, who invested personally.

Crane says the Series A follows $2 million in seed moneyfrom December 2006, provided by Polaris and the original partners. That moneyenabled Tempo to hire staff and obtain an exclusive license from theMassachusetts Institute of Technology to its core technology, which it callsNanocell. "We believe that we have the potential to really play a broadleadership role in the application of nanotechnology to pharmaceuticals," saysCrane.

Although Crane acknowledges pharmaceutical uses fornanotechnology are in their infancy, he sees promise that nanotechnology willaffect the drug industry broadly within the next five to ten years by makingdrugs more efficacious and safe. "There's a lot of what we've tried to achievedone other ways in the pharmaceutical industry, without the help of this newtechnology," says Crane. Animal testing has already shown good results usingexisting cancer drugs in a nanotechnology format, he says, by "dramaticallyinhibiting tumor growth, prolonging survival of animals it was tested in, andimproving the safety profile of the drug."

Crane says Tempo designs nanoparticles that focus cancerdrugs 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 exploitingthe biology of the tumor itself. The first drug, located on the outside of ananoparticle that's too big to get into healthy tissue, has ananti-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 toVenrock, says Bryan Roberts, managing general partner. "I have seen over thelast five years a large number of targeted delivery drug improvementtechnologies out there," says Roberts. "Whether they come under the guise ofnanobiotechnology or drug delivery, pick your moniker of the day, none of themgrabbed my attention nearly as Tempo does."

Roberts also praises the Tempo team and Crane, notingCrane's recruiting abilities and track record, which includes work at MomentaPharmaceuticals and Millennium Pharmaceuticals. Crane says Tempo's group ofabout 15 employees combines experience in major pharmaceutical companies andbuilding biotech companies. "We often talk about the technology, but you haveto make something of the technology, and that really comes from having a greatteam."

The Tempo team is working under a business model thatcombines solo work and partnerships. "The nature of this technology is suchthat we can apply it to our own drugs, but we can apply it to other people'sdrugs as well," Crane says. Tempo can build a deep pipeline because theNanocell may be simultaneously applied to patented or off-patent drugs,avoiding massive equity dilution, believes Crane. "You really have to haveoutstanding technology, but you really have to have a business model thatrelates to that technology and enables significant value creation."
 

Lisa Espenschade

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