BioWorld International Correspondent

Exiqon A/S secured $20 million in its third funding round to continue development of its miRCURY portfolio of microRNA tools, to expand its sales and marketing capabilities, to fund new production facilities and to retire debt.

Lars Kongsbak, president and CEO of Vedbaek, Denmark-based Exiqon, told BioWorld International that the cash will be sufficient to take the company to break-even. It has forecast revenues of $5 million to $6 million in 2005.

"We're only going to have a burn of $500,000 this year," he said. Its burn might increase next year, though, as it ramps up staff numbers in product development and sales and marketing. "We may actually establish ourselves in the U.S. to get closer to U.S. customers," Kongsbak said.

Exiqon is commercializing tools based on its DNA analogue technology, Locked Nucleic Acids (LNA). Last month, it entered an exclusive worldwide distribution agreement concerning its ProbeLibrary real-time PCR detection probes with the Roche Diagnostics division of F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd., of Basel, Switzerland. Exiqon will continue to enhance the product line and to develop the probes and accompanying assay development software on Roche's behalf.

Last month it also launched its miRCURY detection probes for analysis of microRNAs by fluorescence in situ hybridization and Northern Blot. That will be the principal focus of the company's product development activities for the remainder of the year. Kongsbak said Exiqon also is interested in bringing in biomarkers that it could combine with the miRCURY technology to develop analyte-specific reagents and full-blown diagnostics, although those are more long-term ambitions.

Teknoinvest, of Oslo, Norway, led the financing round. Existing investors Scandinavian Life Science Venture, Nobel Group, LD Pensions, BioFund and Danske Bank also participated.

Exiqon now has raised $37 million since its formation in 1996. The company ultimately aims to provide an exit for its investors via a trade sale rather than an IPO.