By Aaron Lorenzo

Syrrx Inc. closed an $18.5 million preferred stock financing, bringing the private company¿s total equity financing to $98.5 million over the last two years.

The placement was led by HBM Partners and included new and existing investors. Syrrx, a rational drug discovery company with a proprietary automated structural proteomics technology platform, will use the funds to expand its drug discovery capabilities.

¿We are very pleased that we have been able to continue to build our valuation and secure additional capital despite the current market conditions,¿ Syrrx chief financial officer Norman Halleen said in a prepared statement.

The news nearly concludes a busy year for the San Diego-based company. The financing comes on the heels of a collaboration with Rockville, Md.-based Celera Genomics, reported earlier this month. The companies will work to accelerate the discovery of novel small-molecule drugs. Syrrx will apply its high-throughput technology platform to determine the 3-dimensional structures of proteins identified by Celera as potential drug targets. This structural information could result in the more efficient discovery of small-molecule therapeutics. Celera will make a series of R&D payments to Syrrx in connection with the collaboration, but specific financial terms were not disclosed.

Syrrx also acquired validated drug targets and additional assets from Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Richmond, Calif., as part of a small-molecule discovery program. That deal was announced in November.

The lion¿s share ¿ nearly three-quarters of the $98.5 million worth of financing ¿ also was raised during the past year, with $25 million raised the year before.

¿Along with the $20 million debt financing arranged for our new facility earlier this year, this round of financing will assure investors that our operating funds will allow for the completion of our strategic plan through 2004,¿ Halleen said. ¿Syrrx is very well positioned to create additional value for investors through the discovery and development of novel preclinical drug compounds in conjunction with our partners and through our own internal discovery programs.¿

Syrrx operates in the field of drug discovery through structural proteomics, the process of generating protein structures from genetic information. The company also has alliances with the San Diego-based Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation and with Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Lexington, Mass. Syrrx leverages high-throughput structure determination with structural biology, medicinal chemistry, and high-throughput computational and screening methods to discover new drugs.