Aspreva Pharmaceuticals Corporation, creators of a unique pharmaceutical asset partnering model, today announced the completion of a $57 million (Cdn$76 million) private equity financing.

Sprout Group, one of the oldest and largest US institutional venture capital firms and an affiliate of Credit Suisse First Boston, led the investment. Other participants in the international syndicate include InterWest Partners, HBM Partners, Thomas Weisel Healthcare Ventures, BioAsia Investments LLC and Axiom Venture Partners.

This financing, one of the largest series A financings reported in North America , consists of $53 million venture capital funds and $4.2 million in converted debt.

Aspreva's initial core therapeutic area of focus is autoimmunity, and the company will use these proceeds to initiate and fund clinical trials in several autoimmune diseases with CellCept ® (mycophenolate mofetil), its first licensed therapeutic. In addition it will grow the business through further key hires and product partnerships. The company will expand the number of core therapeutic franchises based upon future strategic alliances utilizing its novel asset partnering model.

In October 2003, Aspreva announced a major partnership with F. Hoffmann La-Roche, in which Aspreva acquired the worldwide rights (excluding Japan ) to develop and commercialize Roche's transplant medication CellCept for all autoimmune indications. CellCept is currently the leading branded transplant medication in the United States and holds tremendous promise for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. For example, clinical research, including a significant study reported in the March 4, 2004 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, has demonstrated the potential value of CellCept over the current standard of care in the treatment of lupus nephritis.

Richard Glickman, Chairman and CEO commented, “We are pleased to be working with investors of this caliber. They have the depth of experience and understanding of the pharmaceutical industry that will make them significant contributors as Aspreva executes its business plan and undergoes a phase of rapid growth. In the next twelve months, with multiple phase III trials on-going, operations on three continents and one of the most promising new autoimmune disease treatments in CellCept, Aspreva will emerge as a major force in the autoimmune disease arena.”

"Aspreva's ability to attract such leading investors is further confirmation of the relevance of our business model. The unique Aspreva asset partnering approach unlocks a whole new paradigm for the pharmaceutical industry, addressing the need to maximize the value of existing product assets while maintaining core market focus. It also speaks to the excitement around the potential use of CellCept in autoimmune diseases such as lupus, for which there has been no new approved medication for more than 30 years," said Noel Hall, President and Co-Founder of Aspreva.

Ron Hunt, Partner at Sprout Group, commented, "We made a significant investment in Aspreva based on the company's seasoned leadership, visionary approach to drug commercialization and tremendous asset in CellCept. From our perspective, Aspreva's deal with Roche is one of the best licensing agreements recently forged in the industry, establishing a strong foundation for Aspreva's commercialization program and allowing Roche's product to target new markets. We believe that CellCept could be valuable in the treatment of a number of autoimmune diseases, addressing the needs of millions of patients in North America alone."

Mr. Hunt will be joining Aspreva's Board of Directors, as will Arnold Oronsky general partner of InterWest. Dr Oronsky has extensive pharmaceutical industry experience, previously holding positions as Vice President, Research, Lederle Laboratories and Head of Immunology Research, Ciba-Geigy Pharmaceuticals.

BMO Nesbitt Burns and Harris Nesbitt, the investment and corporate banking arms of BMO Financial Group, served as financial advisor and private placement agent for Aspreva.