Venture Capitalists Invest Millions in Immunetech

San Diego County Business Editor

Immunetech Pharmaceuticals Inc., a San Diego biotechnology company trying to develop a set of anti-allergy drugs, has received $12 million in venture capital from a group of investors, including Citicorp, Hambrecht & Quist, Domain Partners and others.

The funding, which follows an $11-million venture capital infusion in May, 1986, by a mostly different group of investors, should be enough to finance the company’s operations up to the anticipated introduction of Immunetech’s first product in late 1988, President Gordon Ramseier said Tuesday.

Immunetech is developing genetically engineered compounds called peptides that regulate the human immune system, Ramseier said. If successful, the products would be administered to patients with allergies, diseases such as multiple sclerosis and diabetes, and other conditions in which the immune system breaks down.


Human clinical trials are being concluded at several university medical centers on the company’s first product, a hay fever and conjunctivitis remedy called HEPP. Ramseier said U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of an injectable form of HEPP could come early next year. Immunetech is also developing HEPP in a nasal spray dosage form.

HEPP’s advantage over competing products is that it consists of naturally occurring amino acid compounds and produces no apparent side effects, Ramseier said. More than $1 billion is spent annually on allergy remedies, he added.

Trials for Second Product

The company hopes to begin human clinical trials late this year on a T-cell suppressant peptide that Immunetech officials say may help multiple sclerosis victims.

Immunetech was founded in 1981 by three UC San Diego medical researchers: Gary Hahn, who is Immunetech’s vice president of research, Robert Hamburger and Richard O’Connor. Hamburger and O’Connor are no longer associated with the company.

Ramseier, 42, joined the company last September. He was formerly a partner in Booz, Allen & Hamilton, a management-consultant firm. Immunetech’s chairman is James Blair, a partner at Domain Partners in Princeton, N.J., one of Immunetech’s largest venture capital investors.

Immunetech employs 55, a figure that will double over the next year and a half as the company puts its sales, marketing and distribution framework into place. Manufacturing of Immunetech products, however, will be contracted to Carlsberg Biotechnology, a subsidiary of the Carlsberg brewing concern in Denmark, Ramseier said.