BioWorld International Correspondent

Dutch biotechnology firm PamGene International BV, which is developing a second-generation microarray platform, raised €10 million in a financing round led by LCF Rothschild Venture Partners, of Paris.

Existing investors Alta Partners, of San Francisco; GIMV, of Antwerp, Belgium; and Life Sciences Partners, of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, also participated in the transaction.

"This will fund us until break-even, and we're expecting to break even in the first quarter of 2005," CEO Tim Kievits told BioWorld International. The 's-Hertogenbosch-based company raised €6.7 million in its first financing round and later gained an additional €6 million in a combined licensing and equity deal from strategic partner Olympus Optical Co. Ltd., of Tokyo.

PamGene was spun out of the Organon Teknika subsidiary of the Dutch chemicals and pharmaceuticals group Akzo Nobel NV, of Oss, in late 1999 to commercialize a new approach to microarray-based screening and gene expression profiling.

Its platform is based on a porous material made from aluminum oxide, which enables binding reactions to proceed in a 3-dimensional space rather than on a flat surface, as is the case with existing microarrays. That would allow researchers to follow the detailed kinetics of a reaction. Instead of obtaining a single endpoint, indicating whether or not a particular binding event has occurred, they would receive a continuous data stream, providing a far greater level of detail on the overall dynamics of the reaction in question. "This is really what sets us apart from other microarray systems," Kievits said.

Olympus already has launched in Asia a four-way, semiautomated product, the FD10 system, based on the technology. It will shortly follow with a launch in Europe and the U.S. PamGene's flagship product, a high-throughput, automated, 96-well system, PamStation 96, is due to come on the market in the first quarter of next year. It will be pitched at organizations following between 40 and 400 markers in a single screen. The first applications, Kievits said, will focus on toxicology testing and kinase profiling. Later versions will cater to applications such as gene expression profiling, SNP profiling, mutation detection, protein-protein interactions and additional enzymatic assays.

Earlier this year, the company spun out a start-up, Check-Points BV, to develop applications outside of the drug discovery and development arena. That company is focused on areas such as food and water quality testing and process and quality control in the fermentation industry.