Active Biotech's finances have received a major boost after the Swedish company issued some six million new shares to Investor AB, the holding company of the prominent Wallenberg banking family.

The shares are priced at 45 Swedish kroner each, bringing in proceeds of 270 million kroner (about $42.2 million) after costs. News of the transaction led to a 10.6% rise in Active's stock to 54 kroner.

Some of the cash will be used to "enable the continued development and value-growth of the project portfolio" at Active. The key late-stage treatments in its pipeline are tasquinimod for prostate cancer (partnered with Ipsen) and Teva-partnered laquinimod for multiple sclerosis (see below).

Active said it was beneficial to broaden the shareholder base and "take advantage of the opportunity to raise capital on favourable terms for the company from a strong and well renowned investor". Its two largest shareholders MGA Holding and Nordstjernan and East Bay AB, with a joint stake of 44%, support the new issue.

Active chief executive Tomas Leanderson said the firm's portfolio has now matured so "our focus over the next 18-month period will be on finding suitable partners and partnering structures for each project". He added that "a strong financial position is a prerequisite in order to succeed with this activity in an optimal way".

New laquinimod MS trial

Meantime Active and Teva announced today enrollment of the first patient in  their third Phase III placebo-controlled study designed to evaluate laquinimod, their once-daily oral treatment for relapsing-remitting MS.

This third study will use a higher dose of laquimimod (1.2mg compared to 0.6mg in the two previous trials which involved more than 2,400 patients) and its primary endpoint will be disability progression. The trial. called Concerto, is expected to involve 1,800 patients at 300 sites will also look at brain atrophy in patients. The drug is also in studies for Crohn's disease and lupus.