Gyros AB, a Swedish microlaboratory platform technology firm spun out of Amersham Biosciences AB last year, raised SEK309 million (US$30 million) in a second round of funding, led by 3i plc of London.

Other new investors include the Swedish Industrial Development Fund, InnovationsKapital, and H&B Capital.

Uppsala-based Gyros was formed in January 2000, but the CD-based microfluidics technology it is commercializing has been under development for over a decade. It will commit some of the proceeds from the latest financing to a new pilot production plant that will take the company through its first product launch and early market introduction.

¿The CD plant should be operational early next year in time for the launch of our product in the early half of next year,¿ President and CEO Maris Hartmanis told BioWorld International.

Gyros is developing a platform technology that miniaturizes and integrates laboratory workflows in order to improve throughput efficiency and sensitivity. The company¿s initial product offering is aimed at the proteomics market. It combines protein digestion, concentration, purification, and matrix addition on a single CD platter.

¿We are seeing at least a 10-fold, sometimes a 100-fold, improvement in sensitivity in sample preparation over how it is being done typically in the lab today,¿ Hartmanis said. A single CD can support hundreds of samples that can be analyzed in parallel. ¿The upper limit depends on the available real estate,¿ he said.

A CD player acts as the interface between the macro- and micro-worlds, he said, and connects with standard commercial mass spectrometers.

The underlying technology, according to the company, is protected by 40 patents and patent applications, covering microfluidics, CD manufacturing, system components, surface chemistry, and specific application areas.

¿We are taking applications, instrumentation, technologies that exist out there and tweaking them to suit the life sciences area,¿ Hartmanis said. The platform can also be applied to genomics, cell biology, diagnostics and environmental analysis applications. ¿The key to this is it is the application-specific CDs contain the solution for the customer.¿

The company has disclosed two alliances, with proteomics firm Affibody AB, of Stockholm, and Genencor International Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif. Both are progressing according to plan, Hartmanis said. The company also is involved in additional undisclosed collaborations.

¿We have a wide network from our previous careers in big pharma and the life sciences supplies industry,¿ he said. The company is in the process of ¿reeling in¿ these contacts. The market Gyros is addressing is worth an annual US$10 billion, Hartmanis said. Therefore, he said, he does not view other microlaboratory players such as Aclara BioSciences Inc. or Caliper Technologies Corp., both of Mountain View, Calif., as the company¿s primary source of competition.

¿The tough challenge is and will be getting the customers to switch [to working on a nanoscale],¿ he said. ¿It has already begun. But no one can say how fast it is going to go.¿

Gyros raised SEK 285 million in its first financing. The latest investment was initially intended to take it to an IPO in 2003, but the current climate is likely to introduce a delay.

Uppsala-based Amersham Biosciences currently holds approximately 10 percent of Gyros¿ equity.