BioWorld International Correspondent

BORNHEIM, Germany BioVisioN AG raised about EUR15 million (US$13.1 million) in its second financing round.

The funds are expected to fuel the company’s growth from a technology company to a product development company, BioVisioN CEO Peter Schulz-Knappe told BioWorld International.

BioVisioN, of Hannover, Germany, searches for peptides of interest for therapy and diagnosis.

“[Peptides] are a rich source of smaller molecules that are not addressed by conventional proteomics technologies,” Schulz-Knappe said.

BioVisioN searches the peptides by differential peptide display. “We extract the peptides from a sample, separate them by chromatography, then measure by mass spectrometry all the fractions [yielded].”

Thus the researchers obtain peptide fingerprints of the sample.

Peptides in BioVisioN’s view allow a short-term and long-term business perspective, with the short-term focus related to diagnostics.

Peptides often are products of protein degradation. “So you can monitor the ongoing degenerative processes by monitoring peptides,” Schulz-Knappe said. “Since peptides are small, they can escape from local tissues into the bloodstream. Therefore, you can do diagnostics in blood or blood plasma by analyzing peptides and then draw conclusions about diagnostic and therapy effects in patients.”

BioVisioN has a major focus on diagnostic markers related to oncology, Schulz-Knappe said.

The company expects to find novel markers, for example, by comparing peptide fingerprints from healthy and pathologic samples or from samples taken prior to treatment to those after treatment, he said.

The company’s long-term business perspective is related to therapeutics.

[Peptides found] may be drugs or fingerprints, around which drugs might be designed, Schulz-Knappe said.

BioVisioN’s therapeutics focus is on diabetes and obesity.

“It depends on the study design, whether you have the chance to find a diagnostic marker, a drug target or a potential drug,” he said.

Peptides themselves are not always ideal drugs, Schulz-Knappe said. “Their half-life in circulation is sometimes only minutes. [But such a] peptide opens the chance to discover a novel metabolic process and surround it by patent protection.” In searching for small molecules, which could mimic or antagonize the peptide’s effect, BioVisioN would do further development with a specialized partner, he said.

Schulz-Knappe expects it will take years to drive in-house therapeutic projects into clinical studies. For diagnostics he expects in-house projects to enter development this year or in 2003.

In order to grow from a technology to a product development company, BioVisioN plans to accelerate more biology, more medical expertise in different indications and add internal target validation aiming at more mature products, which might be offered to the pharmaceutical industry, Schulz-Knappe explained.

He expects staff to grow from 65 to 120 employees during the next two years.

The company currently has a partnership with Roche Diagnostics GmbH, of Mannheim, Germany, related to markers in Alzheimer’s disease. In the field of technology development BioVisioN collaborates with Applied Biosystems, of Foster City, Calif. Matrix Science Ltd., of London, collaborates with BioVisioN in software development for mass spectrometry.

In 2000 BioVisioN acquired major ownership of the Weinheim, Germany-based genome research company BioPhage KG.

BioVisioN in 1997 was spun off the Hannover-based Lower Saxony Institute of Peptide Research, and raised EUR4.6 million in its first financing round in April 1998.

Heidelberg Innovation, of Heidelberg, Germany, led the second financing round. Other investors included Nextech Venture, of Zurich, Switzerland; IVEC, of Cologne; and MPC Group, of Hamburg, as well as first-round investors Venture Vision, of Stuttgart, and IMH and BioMed Venture, both of Hannover.