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Senior Staff Writer

Peakadilly NV, a company focused on predictive protein biomarkers, pulled in €8.5 million in a final closing of its Series A round, bringing the total amount raised to €14.5 (US$18.4 million).

"That's a pretty significant Series A financing for Europe, I think, and a good demonstration of the confidence investors have in what we're doing and the capability of the technology," said Nick McCooke, CEO of the Ghent, Belgium-based company. "In fact, we were oversubscribed."

Investors included GIMV, of Antwerp, Belgium; Life Science Partners, of Amsterdam, the Netherlands; KBC Private Equity, of Brussels, Belgium; and Baekeland Fonds II, the venture capital fund of the Ghent University Association.

The first Series A closing occurred in March when Life Science Partners and Johnson & Johnson Development Corp., a subsidiary of New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson, invested €6 million.

Peakadilly was founded in late 2004 by The Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB), a research institution that provides bio-incubator space to biotech companies. It has co-founded other start-up companies such as Devgen NV and Ablynx NV, both of Ghent. The technology came out of research done at Ghent University in Zwijnaarde.

Peakadilly intends to use the proceeds to increase the capacity of its protein biomarker discovery operations, which is based on its MASStermind technology.

"The technology is discovering biomarkers in blood and other tissues," McCooke told BioWorld Today, "and we will be using that in our own projects in discovering biomarkers that will be used in diagnostic and pharmacodiagnostic products."

With the technology, the analysis of one blood sample allows researchers to assess close to 3,000 different proteins and their processed isoforms. Peakadilly is able to deliver heat maps comparable to microarray datasets, which include the position of the biomarker in the gene product.

The expansion of the technology will help Peakadilly develop more relationships with pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies, the company said. Its ability to develop protein biomarkers at any stage of drug discovery means pharmaceutical partners can reduce the overall cost of drug development, select and monitor patients for shorter advanced clinical trials, and predict which patients will respond best and be less likely to have side effects from certain drugs. The biomarker discovery engine is known as COFRADIC, which stands for combined fractional diagonal chromatography.

The company already has established some revenue-generating partnerships with unnamed pharmaceutical companies, and it has secured patents for its technology.

McCooke said Peakadilly's technology represents a significant advance over other approaches.

"The gold standard in proteomics is still the 2D gel, but we've implemented a much higher throughput, much more sensitive, much higher dynamic range technology," he said.

"The analogy is we're trying to find rare fish in the sea," he added, "and we're pulling out a lot more fish than other" technologies.

In connection with the financing, Peakadilly appointed Jim Van heusden, senior investment manager at GIMV, to its board. McCooke could not be certain how far the Series A funds would carry Peakadilly.

"As always is the case with a company that has a revenue-generating component to the model, it's going to be a little dependent on the scale of the revenues," he said. "It's an amount of cash that gives us quite a bit of flexibility and allows us to achieve some milestones in the next few years."

Peakadilly has a vision that biomarkers, which it calls "peaks," will become a commodity just like the consumer brands advertised at places like Piccadilly Circus in London. The company hopes to create diagnostics that will revolutionize the development of cancer and inflammatory disease treatments, and that will enable the development of personalized medicines. It currently has 28 employees.

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