PARIS ¿ Genome Express, a supplier of products and services to companies specialized in functional genomics and pharmacogenomics, raised EUR12.4 million (US$11 million) in a second funding round.

The lead banker for the financing was Siparex Ventures, of Paris, which subscribed to EUR4.3 million, while Sud Partners, the fund management arm of Lyon-based Sudinnova, was co-lead manager, putting up EUR1.5 million. Other participants were 3i, of London (EUR3 million); SPEF Venture, of Paris (EUR1.5 million); Compagnie Financihre Edmond de Rothschild, of Paris (EUR1 million); Aquasourga, of Lyon (EUR1 million); and Biotek Partenaires, of Lyon (EUR100,000).

Although it was founded in 1994, Genome Express, which is based near Grenoble in southeastern France, did not have to raise any external capital until 1999, when it obtained EUR1.2 million from 3i. The British fund and Siparex are now the joint lead investors, each having a shareholding of about 20 percent to 25 percent.

The main reason why Genome Express did not have to bring in outside investors until 1999 is that it was self-financing between 1994 and 1998, CEO Yves Laurent told BioWorld International. The company slipped into the red in 1999 as a result of entering a ¿very cash-consuming phase to establish its technology platform.¿

He added that the latest injection of funds would be sufficient to tide it over until it ¿becomes profitable again in two to three years¿ time.¿ For 2001, Laurent said revenues would double to EUR4 million and that he anticipated a loss of about EUR2 million.

Genome Express said it is France¿s leading custom DNA sequencing specialist and is particularly strong in bioinformatics. Its patent portfolio includes Synquence, a software tool it developed for the discovery of SNPs. It also is a member of the French Geno Star (Geno*) consortium set up earlier this year to design and develop a single modular platform for exploratory genomics (the other members are Hybrigenics SA, of Paris, the Institut Pasteur and the National Institute of Computing and Automation Research ¿ INRIA).

In 2001 Genome Express diversified into proteomics, gene expression and pharmacogenomics to enhance its target discovery capability. Laurent explained that its strategy in this area was to identify drug targets but not to become a drug development company now. Instead, it intends to undertake long-term contractual research for the pharmaceutical industry on terms that take account of the long lead times for target identification and optimization.

On the strength of the funds it has raised, Genome Express now plans to accelerate its international development. Laurent said, ¿We now have the resources to expand Genome Express¿s international presence both organically and by acquisition.¿ Its principal overseas interest at present is a 21 percent equity stake in the U.S. company Amplicon Express, of Pullman, Wash., in which it invested on the occasion of Amplicon¿s creation in 1997.

While that gives it a bridgehead for expanding its customer base in the U.S., Laurent said the company is also interested in developing its activities in Europe. Its international development will focus on two key areas: the supply of high-throughput DNA sequencing products and services, including DNA libraries, bioinformatics and data qualification; and the discovery of new therapeutic targets in the fields of microbiology and the central nervous system.