BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - Nokad, a French start-up founded in January 2004 that is developing its KO-Like animals for the biopharmaceutical industry, completed an initial funding round for an undisclosed amount.

Nokad's CEO, Aymeric Dugray, told BioWorld International he was not authorized to disclose the amount by the company's two investors.

Those investors are Cap Decisif, an investment fund created at the end of 2001 with the support of CDC Entreprises, the private equity arm of the French government's bank, the Caisse des Dép ts et des Consignations (CDC); and Genopole 1er Jour, the seed fund of Genopole, France's national biotechnology science and business park south of Paris. Nokad is based in Genopole.

Dugray did say that the company now had sufficient funding for two years and that it planned to add two more people to its three-person work force before the end of the year.

Nokad is developing functional knockout animals designed to facilitate the study of the role played by proteins involved in pathological processes and to identify new therapeutic targets. It is exploiting a technology for the in vivo deactivation of the production of one or several proteins and is sole owner of the intellectual property, since it was developed by the company's founder and chief scientific officer, Amine Abina.

Dugray said KO-Like animals offer advantages over others, as "it requires six months to produce KO-Like animals, as against 12 to 24 months using conventional means." Also, "each animal developed by Nokad is specific to each customer, in terms of the protein deactivated, the deactivation mechanism and the testing techniques used to verify the protein's deactivation."

Dugray added that the company would start marketing its products and services to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries in September, following the summer vacation period in France. The only KO-Like animal it will have to offer in the first instance is a particular species of mouse, but Dugray said it was developing a KO-Like rat model, which should be available at year-end.

Nokad is engaged in a scientific collaboration with the Institut Cochin, the research arm of the Cochin hospital in Paris, which is focused on a protein involved in the metabolism of iron. That collaboration is nearing its end, Dugray said, but he stressed that Nokad was keen to enter other such collaborations, in which it was prepared to share its intellectual property with partners and thus earn commensurately higher revenues.

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