Feb. 21, 2011
By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel
FluGen Inc. has landed $7.8 million that should help bring one of its leading technologies into human clinical trials this year.
Knox LLC of Las Vegas, the investment vehicle for a wealthy University of Wisconsin-Madison alum, led the company’s latest round of fund-raising.
Madison-based FluGen will use the money to fund a Phase I clinical trial for its vaccine delivery device, a poker chip-sized, micro-needle skin patch the company says is more effective and less painful than standard needle injections. FluGen will use a vaccine that’s already on the market in the trial, said Paul Radspinner, president and chief executive officer.
The patch should make vaccines more effective in older people because it delivers into the skin, which maintains immunity longer than the rest of the body, Radspinner said. It will also be less invasive and therefore less frightening for kids, he said.
FluGen hopes to have the patch ready for market by 2015, Radspinner said. The company also is studying a promising influenza vaccine candidate and more efficient ways to produce vaccines.
Knox LLC is led by Frederick J. Mancheski, who became chairman and chief executive of automotive parts supplier Echlin in 1969 and increased annual sales by more than 200 times to more than $3.6 billion. A Stevens Point native, Mancheski graduated from the university with a mechanical engineering degree.
Mancheski is considering making additional angel investments in other Wisconsin companies, said Terry Kelly, chief executive officer of Weather Central LP in Madison and an investor and board member in FluGen.
“We’ve read about these super angels in the Bay Area and it’s nice to see some of this happening here,” said Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, or WARF. FluGen licenses some of its technologies from WARF. If FluGen successfully develops the patch, it will be a good platform for other technologies being developed on the UW-Madison campus, Gulbrandsen said.
Mancheski said in a statement he was lured by FluGen’s ability to address a “compelling health care need” and by Wisconsin’s tax credit system.
“The climate for capital formation and investment in bioscience innovation in the state of Wisconsin is strong and likely to attract substantial additional outside investment interest in the months and years to come,” Mancheski said.