About a year after filing to go public, Senomyx Inc. completed a $36.8 million private placement of Series E preferred stock. The company said it would use the funds to expand and accelerate its research and development efforts.

In February 2001, La Jolla, Calif.-based Senomyx filed a registration statement with the SEC for a proposed $80 million IPO. The company incorporates receptor biology, combinatorial chemistry, high-throughput screening and bioinformatics in its technology platform to discover flavor and fragrance molecules. (See BioWorld Today, Feb. 23, 2001.)

“We filed our S-1 last February, but it was pulled for a private round, this Series E, because of market conditions,” Director of Finance Tony Rogers said. “The company will go back out there and file an S-1 in the future.

“The current outlook is optimistic, certainly within the time frame of how long our Series E cash should last.”

Rogers declined to disclose Senomyx’s current cash standing, but he expects the funds raised to last for “a couple of years at a minimum.”

The financing was co-led by existing investor New York-based Rho Ventures LP, and new investor Merrill Lynch Ventures LP 2001, of New York-based Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. Previous investors include San Francisco-based Bay City Capital LLC, through its North American Nutrition and Agribusiness Fund; Domain Associates LLC, of Princeton, N.J.; and Prospect Venture Partners LP, of Palo Alto, Calif. New investors include Hambrecht & Quist Capital Management Inc., of Boston; OrbiMed Advisors LLC, of New York; and Excelsior Venture Partners III LLC, a private equity fund managed by U.S. Trust Co., of New York.

Three of the company’s five financing rounds have been focused on raising funds for operations. The Series A round, completed during the fourth quarter of 1999, raised $12.3 million. The Series B round, completed during the third quarter of 2000, raised $10 million.

The third and fourth rounds were built into technology collaborations, intended to enhance Senomyx’s technology platform and information technology.

To date, the company has raised just over $70 million, Rogers said.

The funding provided by the latest round will allow the company to move new projects into discovery and will accelerate progress on current collaborations with Kraft Foods Inc., of Northfield, Ill., and the Campbell Soup Co., of Camden, N.J.

The company also has leveraged its technology in the biotech sector. Senomyx’s integrated technology platform combines the biology of taste and smell with many of the same technologies and advancements that pharmaceutical companies use in drug discovery.

In November 2000, Senomyx entered a technology collaboration with Aurora Biosciences Corp., of San Diego, to discover molecules enhancing taste and smell. Senomyx received exclusive rights to use Aurora’s screening technologies with its receptor gene targets for the discovery of consumer products enhancing taste and smell.

A month later, Senomyx entered into a technology collaboration with Palo Alto-based Incyte Genomics Inc. to identify receptor genes that play a role in taste and smell. Incyte provided Senomyx with access to its databases through the collaboration.

“The collaborations are moving along nicely and are on track,” Rogers said.