BioWorld International Correspondent

Swedish biotechnology firm Affibody AB and UK informatics software specialist InforSense Ltd. released a jointly developed tool for interpreting functional genomics and proteomics data. The new offering, GenseSense KDE, is built on London-based InforSense's Kensington Discovery Edition platform for life sciences researchers.

It incorporates the GeneWeaver bioinformatics software Affibody gained when it acquired Swedish firm Visual Bioinformatics three years ago.

"It's building on what both companies already have," Affibody Chief Financial Officer Eola ngg rd-Runsten told BioWorld International. GeneWeaver had been installed at a number of beta sites, but never gained a full commercial release. Stockholm-based Affibody has since updated the software and integrated it with the InforSense platform.

The new product is designed to accelerate the interpretation of genomics, proteomics and gene expression data by allowing researchers to project experimental results onto what the companies call "a semantic network of background knowledge," which includes integrated access to commercial databases and an organization's internal data resources. "It's a very sophisticated virtual chip," Affibody CEO Torben J rgensen said.

InforSense and Affibody disclosed their alliance in September, but have not revealed financial terms. InforSense will be responsible for managing sales and marketing. For Affibody, the initiative is adjacent to its core business, but it could become a financial support for it. "If it's very successful in the market, it can make a substantial contribution," ngg rd-Runsten said.

The company's core platform is based around its antibody mimetic technology. Individual molecules are generated by making random amino acid substitutions at one of 13 positions at the binding site of a Staphylococcus aureus protein A domain, which comprises 58 amino acids in total.

It is commercializing this in three ways: via "separomics," or protein purification; proteomics; and biotherapeutics. In the former sphere it already has forged an alliance with Amersham Pharmacia Biotech AB, of Uppsala, Sweden, and is seeking deals in the other two areas. Within the proteomics field, research diagnostics and target validation are the priorities.

J rgensen said companies that have large numbers of unvalidated targets are expressing interest. "It's not so cumbersome and costly as [it is] with antibodies. I'm very encouraged with the feedback we've got. You're not going to make tens of deals. It's very specific."

In biotherapeutics, the company is seeking deals in the area of extracorporeal therapy. Discussions with potential partners are under way for two disease indications, J rgensen said. The company also is attempting to establish proof of concept in animal studies, before investigating the potential of Affibodies to act as an internally administered drug.

Affibody raised US$28 million in its last funding round. It is not seeking additional investment at present. "Our cash position is quite stable. We have sufficient cash for the coming two years and a little more," ngg rd-Runsten said. (See BioWorld International, Oct. 10, 2001.)