National Editor

To help along its partnership with Axon Instruments Inc., Aviva Biosciences Corp. conducted the first closing of a Series B financing that raised $11.8 million.

"The money's in the bank," said Eric Lachenmeier, director of business development for San Diego-based Aviva.

That brings the total raised by privately held Aviva since 1999 to $16.8 million. The round was led by longstanding investor China Development Industrial Bank, of Taiwan, and included new investor Pac-Link Management Corp., also of Taiwan.

Another new investor is Axon, of Union City, Calif., which is developing a line of automated ion channel drug screening systems, called PatchXpress, using Aviva's biochip technology. Sales are expected to start late this year.

Funds raised are "mostly focused toward ramping up our production capabilities and fulfilling orders that are projected," Lachenmeier said. "Let's just say there's a lot of interest in the product line, and the challenge will be for both Aviva and Axon to produce as much as will be demanded."

Axon, makers of instrumentation and software for genomics and high-throughput screening, was founded in 1984 and known particularly for hardware and software used in cellular neuroscience research.

Aviva, which combines biochips with cell biology to focus on electrophysiology research, ion channel drug screening and rare-cell isolation, is continuing to develop its prenatal diagnostic sample preparation technology, intended to replace amniocentesis as a noninvasive genetic test during early pregnancy.

Lachenmeier told BioWorld Today that Aviva's work is not to be confused with that of other chip companies, which he said pursued less useful technology when the genomics craze was in full swing a few years ago and much work was done in such areas as microfluidics and miniaturizing single nucleotide polymorphisms.

"Everybody running around trying to make chips for SNPs, and that market never really developed," he said. "It was getting maybe 10 years ahead of itself. Aviva is not a genomics chip company - that's the big difference. We're focusing on cells and cell-based assays."

Earlier this year, Aviva spun off Aviva Antibody Corp., in which it maintains a minority interest, to create and develop antibodies using partner-provided targets. (See BioWorld Today, June 14, 2001.)