DURHAM … The German parent company of Apex Bioscience is merging with another German drug discovery company to expand the product pipeline and speed the development of new drugs.

As part of the merger between VitaResc Biotech AG and Curacyte AG, lead investors of both companies have committed an extra $5 million in funding to the combined company, which will operate under the Curacyte name. A silent partnership is chipping in another $1.4 million to the venture.

“The merger between VitaResc and Curacyte reinforces and accelerates our strategy to become a leading fully integrated drug discovery and development company,” Helmut Giersiefen, who will serve as chief executive of the new company, said in a statement. “The proposal to merge both companies resulted from an in-depth analysis over several months, during which time we identified the attractive potential for creating increased shareholder value in terms of a strong and risk-diversified product portfolio and complementary core competencies. We are now on a path to integrate the companies to establish global operations and unlock synergies.”

Curacyte was founded in February 2001 as a research-based biopharmaceutical company dedicated to the discovery and development of medicines in the areas of hematology, anti-thrombosis and oncology. VitaResc Biotech, which was founded in March 1999 and acquired Apex Bioscience that same year, is a development-stage company focused on novel treatments for critical care conditions and inflammatory diseases. These remain therapeutic areas of focus for the combined company.

The new company’s lead compound is PHP, a chemically modified hemoglobin that Apex Bioscience developed. The drug, which is in Phase III clinical trials, is designed to regulate toxic levels of nitric oxide that are produced in inflammatory patients and bring on shock. PHP also has an approved Investigational New Drug application for Phase I/II development as a treatment for renal cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Apex Bioscience officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

Helmut Schühsler, managing partner at lead investor Techno Venture Management and chairman of Curacyte’s supervisory board, said in a statement that the merger creates a company with the critical mass needed to succeed.

“I believe that, under Dr. Giersiefen’s leadership, we have been able to create a company with a deep pipeline of products and a lead drug in Phase III of clinical evaluation,” Schühsler said. “This makes Curacyte one of the most advanced of all German biopharmaceutical companies today.”

In addition to Germany-based TVM, other lead investors in Curacyte are The Stroh Companies of Detroit and NIB Capital Private Equity of The Netherlands. Other investors include A.M. Pappas Strategic Equities of Durham, KB Lux Venture Capital Fund of Luxemburg and Technologiebeteiligungsgesellschaft, Gold-Zack Partners, Süd Venture Capital, IKB Venture Capital and Bio-M, all of Germany.

The combined companies have raised $33 million in venture capital to date, and officials plan to raise a Series C round within the next year.

Following the merger, Curacyte will have 30 employees at its headquarters in Munich, Apex Biosciences’ office in Durham and a new subsidiary in Jena, Germany, that will focus on chemical synthesis and the development of anti-thrombotic and anti-cancer drugs.

Curacyte website: www.curacyte.com