BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - Nucleis SA is in the process of establishing a research and development center in Montreal and has plans for setting up sales offices in Atlanta and Singapore to facilitate the marketing of its fee-for-service activities in North America and the Far East.

Lyon-based Nucleis creates genetically modified, custom-made mice and provides associated biological services. It uses a platform called Speedy Mouse to optimize the creation of specific transgenic lines in terms of time, predictability and selection.

The Speedy Mouse platform, which is licensed from McGill University in Montreal, is designed to perform in vivo target validation, drug optimization and preclinical studies. Nucleis said the platform enables it to generate predictable and reproducible models and that it can meet demands such as over-expression, gene humanization and in vivo knock-down (RNAi) models.

Nucleis was founded in July 2002 and moved into profit within two years. In effect, it earned what it described as a two-digit net profit ratio on revenues of €1.5 million (not including grants and subsidies) in 2004. According to the company's assistant director, Sylvie Broman, Nucleis anticipates further revenue growth this year, thanks to the customer base it already has for its fee-for-service activities, and should again post a profit.

The company has completed two modest funding rounds, the first for €400,000 (US$487,835) in October 2003 and the second in April, when it raised €1.4 million. Its lead investor is the Lyon-based venture capital fund Vizille Capital Innovation, which subscribed the whole of the first round and €1.2 million of the second. Nucleis has 28 employees.

Nucleis' decision to set up an R&D center in Montreal is aimed at supporting its scientific collaboration with McGill University, which is focused on developing and expanding the Speedy Mouse platform and extending it to rats and possibly other species.

The technology is at the heart of the services Nucleis markets to third parties and is the basis of a number of its research collaborations. One of the most important is with the Scottish firm CXR Biosciences Ltd., with which Nucleis signed a formal agreement in April after CXR Biosciences tested and validated Nucleis' technology.

Their collaboration entails the development of specific, genetically modified mouse models using Nucleis' Speedy Mouse technology. For the CEO of CXR Biosciences, Tom Shepherd, the main interest of collaborating with Nucleis was the rapidity with which Nucleis can generate transgenic models to CXR Biosciences' specifications. CXR Biosciences uses a platform called Developability Screen, which is based on toxicology reporter technology and makes it possible to select efficacious compounds early in the process.

Broman told BioWorld International that the collaboration had been in place for more than a year and was set to continue for an indefinite period. But she said she was not authorized to disclose the therapeutic fields of interest to CXR.

Nucleis also is engaged in a major research program with the French company Oncodesign, with which it signed a scientific and commercial collaboration agreement in February 2003 covering the combined field of cancer and transgenesis. Dijon-based Oncodesign is developing cancer therapies that overcome resistance mechanisms to current treatments, and the collaboration reflects Nucleis' ambition to extend its activities into cancer therapeutics. The companies are developing a global preclinical offering of validated cancer drug candidates for licensing to biopharmaceutical companies. At the same time, they are free to work separately with customers in cancer.

Nucleis also is engaged in research collaborations with institutions such as the College de France, the Pasteur Institute and the Curie Institute in Paris, as well as the Claude Bernard University in Lyon, in particular within the framework of the European genome program.

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