BioWorld International Correspondent
LONDON - Sequencing the mouse genome is unlikely to provoke a fund-raising spate like that which flowed from the publication of its human counterpart, but Paradigm Therapeutics Ltd. was keen to stress its murine credentials this week when it announced the completion of a £12 million (US$19 million) second-round funding.
The company, spun out of Cambridge University in 1999, uses transgenic mice to define the biological function of previously uncharacterized human druggable proteins.
Mark Carlton, co-founder and director of operations, told BioWorld International, "We've been comparing the mouse and the human genome as the mouse genome was released over the past 18 months. We always thought this was the way to go to get to therapeutically relevant applications of the [human] genome."
Paradigm's approach demonstrates how setting the mouse genome alongside the human version will speed discovery of novel targets. The company's bioinformatics platform mines the human genome to pinpoint genes with structural similarity to proteins that have previously proved to be good targets, such as G protein-coupled receptors, ion channels and enzymes. Once novel candidate genes are identified, the function is determined in vivo by mutating the gene in mice.
"By comparing genomes we can find the most innovative targets, and we can rate genes according to which are most amenable to therapeutic intervention," Carlton said.
In fact, Paradigm has been working on this funding round since early in the year and it is coincidental it was completed as the mouse genome sequence was published. "It is fair to say it has taken six to nine months of focus on this to close the funding. No one is quick to close at the moment," Carlton said.
BioMedical Sciences Investment Fund Pte. Ltd, of Singapore, and Technomark Medical Ventures, of the UK, acted as co-lead investors for the round. Other investors included Avlar BioVentures, which financed Paradigm's £1 million first-rounding funding in December 2000, and the antibody company Genmab A/S, of Copenhagen, Denmark, with which Paradigm has a development collaboration.
Carlton said the new funding will allow the company to "go up a gear," moving to its own premises in Cambridge and expanding staff to 40 to 45. "This clears us well into a third year, but we will be looking for another financing round in 18 to 24 months from now." The company's collaboration with Genmab is hunting for antibodies that fit its targets, and Paradigm will now start to develop its own chemistry capabilities to look for small-molecule hits.
The company also intends to partner some of its programs. "We have more targets than we can develop in-house. We have made some initial approaches but it will take time to set up deals," Carlton said.