Washington Editor

Cetek Corp. expects to use proceeds from a $16 million private equity financing to help take its early stage compounds into further development.

Located in Marlborough, Mass., Cetek has supported itself over the years by collaborating with other firms for use of its capillary electrophoresis (CE) assay technology for drug discovery purposes. The technology, which combines laser-induced fluorescence with high-resolution CE, provides scientists with the ability to identify and rank the affinity of synthetic and natural product small molecules to therapeutic target proteins in a high-throughput environment.

Since its inception in 1996, the firm has raised $50 million, including the $16 million Series D financing. Cetek has about $20 million in cash, which is expected to bankroll the firm for about two years, James Little, company president, told BioWorld Today.

While Cetek opened its doors in 1996, it didn't start entering collaborations with the likes of Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., and Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development LLC, of Raritan, N.J., until 1998. (See BioWorld Today, Nov. 30, 1998.)

During his tenure with the firm, Little has signed about 20 such deals for Cetek. However, he said, "We are slowing that down - we have a few large pharmaceutical companies that we are working with, but I'm not looking for any new business."

Indeed, for the last year and a half, Cetek has been transitioning into a drug discovery firm that aims to identify candidates, then out-license them for development, Little said.

"We started out as a fee-for-service company, and we did that for three years to see if the platform technologies we had at Cetek were really powerful and how broad-based they were," Little said. "After three years, the results were better than we and our clients expected."

Henceforth, the firm plans to focus on oncology and infectious diseases, but also plans to have programs in diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. Little doesn't have any candidates ready for the clinic.

Cetek, a privately held company, has a library of about 58,000 natural extracts that it screens using its CE technology, which allows scientists to look deep into extracts. The firm's Natural Product Factory provides an industrialized process to obtain high-value hits from natural extracts by integrating CE assay screening and the firm's automated fractional system.

Using its industrialized system, the company said it can perform more than 300 fractionations per month with each automated system and perform 20,000 assays per day.

Investors participating in the Series D included the individuals John Davis and Stephen Davis; Gainesborough Investments, of Lexington, Mass.; Argonaut Private Equity, of Tulsa, Okla.; and James Waters (company founder and current chairman).