Surface Logix Inc. completed an oversubscribed, two-part Series C round of financing, raising a total of $25 million.

"It seems to me that these days a lot of investors are looking more toward companies that have a broader platform that can apply to drug discovery rather than having a single device in development," Surface Logix President and co-founder Carmichael Roberts told BioWorld Today. "Our overall technology platform allows us to not only go after just one biology or one disease, but a variety of biologies and a variety of diseases.

"I think that broadness of our platform helped us, because it took us from looking like a pure tool play or pure drug discovery company to right in between - you can see we get the advantages of having a true technology platform, and also have all the benefits to being able to move closer to the drug through biology."

To date, the Boston-based firm has raised $40 million, not to mention an additional $6.9 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology Advanced Technology Program. The three-year grant was awarded last month to Surface Logix and Ancora Pharmaceuticals Inc., also of Boston, to develop carbohydrate-based assays, solid-phase synthesis and surface-based detection methodologies applicable to drug discovery.

Roberts said the total funding to date would carry Surface Logix into 2005.

"A good portion of the money is going to be geared toward taking the [Disease Interrogator drug discovery platform] to the next level," he said. "On a reasonable budget, we showed a lot of results toward inflammation and oncology, and we showed some early stage stuff in a few other diseases. This money will allow us to expand the platform in inflammation and oncology, and then get some of those other areas to where inflammation and oncology are today."

Beyond Surface Logix's focus in the areas of inflammation and oncology, the 55-employee company is building Disease Interrogator programs for cardiovascular, central nervous system and infectious diseases.

"I'd say the inflammation platform is furthest along now," Roberts said. "We've taken that program to the point where we've been able to work with a variety of very relevant cell lines for inflammation and pick specific targets, or proteins, with specific compound sets. We can begin to do lead optimization and target validation off that package."

He said the oncology program is one step behind the screening and optimization already under way for the inflammation program.

"We're going to start that in the first half of next year," Roberts said. "In the other platforms, we've got a little more than a proof of principle."

But much of Surface Logix's drug discovery efforts since its April 1999 inception have been designed to prove its Disease Interrogator technology's effectiveness. Integrating soft lithography, surface chemistry, cell biology and algorithms, the drug discovery technology provides a living microenvironment with human cells, including primary cells, to advance in vitro models of disease.

"Because we're in between [drug discovery and technology], we have to invest in doing both," Roberts said. "We have to develop the technology platform, and we've got to show that it works in a drug discovery-like manner."

As part of its development plans, the company said it plans to pursue collaborations in inflammation and oncology.

"We'd like to be able to cut collaborative deals in which another company has a set of compounds it feels is extremely relevant to one of our disease-based platforms," Roberts said. "And by the results that we would have, they can see that their compounds can be optimized in a unique way to move them forward to be a clinical candidate.

"Another type would involve a company bringing in a target, whether it's a protein-based target or an interesting cell line that contains a set of protein markers, but they're having a difficult time figuring out how to optimize or develop a way to look at the biology in a drug discovery-like manner."

Such a scenario could lead to a collective partnership to develop compounds. In either case, Roberts stressed its collaborative nature rather than deals to farm away technology or compounds.

The funding for the two-part round was completed in April and September.

New investor HBM BioVentures, of Barr, Switzerland, led the round, and was joined by others including the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS); Intel Capital, of Hillsboro, Ore.; and TIAA-CREF, of New York. Also participating were existing investors Arch Venture Partners, of Chicago; CW Group, of New York; and Venrock Associates, of New York.

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