National Editor

For its research against age-related diseases, Montreal-based Chronogen Inc. raised C$17 million (US$13 million) in a Series B round of financing.

The company has found several new groups of genes that impinge on the lifespan of the nematode, and homologues of the highly conserved genes, along with their encoded proteins, are present in humans.

"We have a fairly comprehensive pipeline of longevity genes in the worm and mice, and within the next three years we hope to get two [investigational new drug applications]," said Iraj Beheshti, president and CEO. "Our first priority is to go after atherosclerosis, but it all depends on more funding," for which talks are under way, he added.

Among the genes are CLK-1, CLK-2 and ISP-1, licensed about a year ago by Chronogen - along with a series of targets - from McGill University in Montreal, with which Chronogen has a contract agreement.

Chronogen uses its mutant worm collection to generate lead data, and in vitro screens are developed on specific enzymatic targets. The company notes that the nematode worm C. elegans is well suited to the study of aging since its normal lifespan is less than 20 days, and finding mutants with an increased lifespan is the first step in narrowing the search for drugs. Some of Chronogen's mutants live up to five times longer than ordinary worms.

About 90 percent of the genes cloned by the company are enzymes that act on small-molecule substrates, and the chance of developing drugs with the small molecules looks good, the company said, since their functions are well defined.

Founded in April 1998, Chronogen has raised C$5.3 million from that date until last year, and is doing research in tandem with McGill, with a total of 27 staffers from each entity devoted to the efforts, Baheshti told BioWorld Today.