BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON Proteom Ltd. raised £3 million (US$4.3 million) in its first funding round to develop its in silico proteomics platform for predicting protein-protein interactions and designing peptides that will bind with specific sites.

The funding came from Avlar BioVentures Ltd. and Technomark Medical Ventures.

CEO Gareth Roberts told BioWorld International, “The market is tough, but persistence paid off. Three million pounds is a little bit more than we were looking for.” The money will fund the company for two years, allowing it to reach “several significant milestones.”

“We have a number of things moving into the preclinical phase, and will be fleshing those out,” he said.

Proteom, based in Cambridge, was founded in September 2000 around research carried out by John Heal, Proteom’s informatics director, at Imperial College, London. He was investigating interactions between sense peptides coded for by sense DNA, and complementary peptides, coded for by the corresponding complementary DNA sequences.

This led to the formulation of a “proteomic code” for predicting how proteins interact and enabling the in silico design of peptides that will bind to specific proteins. Several such inhibitors have been validated in biological systems.

The company said its proprietary algorithms can be used to design peptides of about 7 amino acids in length that are predicated to interact with specific regions of a protein, whether or not the protein’s 3-D structure is known.

This will enable targets to be assessed in silico before committing resources in the laboratory. Apart from being possible therapeutic agents, the peptides also could be used in high-throughput screening and as diagnostic tags. Proteom has collaborations with four companies and Roberts said it is talking to others.

The company also has an agreement with Alan Eastman’s group at Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H., which is researching apoptosis (programmed cell death). Proteom will use its in silico proteomics tools to design peptide inhibitors of certain proteins involved in apoptosis. The partners said this initial phase could lead to a wider collaboration, including the joint development of cancer therapies.

Roberts said the fund raising would allow Proteom to put more resources into its collaborations. It also will advance its internal drug discovery program. “As we are basically an informatics company, we will run a virtual development program, contracting out development work.”