BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - Cytomics Systems closed a second funding round in which it raised €10 million from three Paris-based venture capital funds.

The financing was led by Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners and Truffle Venture, which are both first-time investors. In addition, Société Générale Asset Management Alternative Investments (SGAM AI), which first invested in the company in 2003, also participated in this round.

That funding round may not stop there, Cytomics Systems’ chief financial officer, Erwan Martin, told BioWorld International. "This is the first closing, and there could be a follow-on," he said.

Cytomics Systems, of Gif-sur-Yvette, France, was founded in 2000 but did not really become operational until it completed its first funding round. That took place in 2003, when it raised €3 million solely from SGAM AI, which remains Cytomics’ largest shareholder.

Cytomics Systems is specialized in the discovery of small molecules that control the turnover and degradation of proteins, and is using those discoveries to develop therapeutics in the areas of fungal infections and oncology. It plans to use the latest injection of funds to continue the development of its most advanced antifungal compounds, which showed positive results in recent preclinical studies.

According to Martin, clinical trials are due to start in the first half of 2007, and a Phase IIa trial may have begun by the time the company starts to look for further funding in late 2007 or early 2008. He pointed out that, while it would be useful to have clinical proof of concept for a lead compound by the time the company initiates another funding round, "in the case of antifungals, preclinical studies are a very good pointer to clinical efficacy in humans."

Cytomics also intends to initiate preclinical development in late 2006 or early 2007 of a new generation of proteasome inhibitors it is developing as anticancer agents. The molecules concerned act on the non-catalytic activities of the proteasome and have been found to inhibit the in vitro proliferation of human cancer cells.

Cytomics said last July that it had identified those proteasome inhibitors using its high-throughput, cell-based screening technology UbiScreen, a platform that is designed to help discover drug candidates controlling protein turnover in the ubiquitin proteasome pathway. The pathway is associated with many diseases, including cancer, fungal infections, inflammatory disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.

Martin said the company would continue lead optimization in that program through 2006, and confirmed that preclinical development of the compounds would include in vivo experiments on nude mice xenografted with human cancer cells.

After closing the latest funding round, Cytomics Systems announced the appointment of John Thiebault as its first director of clinical research. Thiebault previously was head of Aster Cephac, a European contract research organization that specializes in early stage clinical studies, which he founded 20 years ago.

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