By Brady Huggett
With its nucleic acid amplification technology as a power source, NuGEN Technologies Inc. closed a $10.8 million Series B financing that could very well be the company¿s last round.
¿We¿ll use this [round] to grow the company,¿ said NuGEN¿s co-founder, CEO and chairman, Jan D¿Alvise. ¿We¿ll probably double the staff by the end of next year. We have 20 employees now and we hope to launch our first product ¿ a kit for gene expression analysis ¿ in the third or fourth quarter next year.¿
The financing, added to its Series A round of $2 million, gives San Carlos, Calif.-based NuGEN¿s a total of $12.8 million raised to date. Considering that NuGEN is generating revenue from partnerships and hopes to see its first product revenue in 2002, that just might be enough, D¿Alvise said.
¿We are still working on our budgets,¿ she told BioWorld Today. ¿The prudent thing to do is to plan on [a Series C] and prepare for it, but we hope the B will be our last round of financing.¿
NuGEN¿s Series A was led by Tenex Medical Investors, of San Mateo, Calif., which invested $1.7 million. Tenex participated in the Series B as well, joining Pequot Ventures, of New York; SoftBank LifeScience Ventures, of Palo Alto, Calif.; Radius Venture Partners, of New York; MedCapital, of New York; and Band of Angels Fund, of Palo Alto, as investors.
D¿Alvise and Nurith Kurn, chief scientific officer at NuGEN, founded NuGEN in February 2000, but its Single Primer Isothermal Amplification (SPIA) technology sprang from the head of Kurn before that, after she left her job at Dade Behring, of Deerfield, Ill.
¿[Kurn] was director of research at Dade,¿ D¿Alvise said. ¿She left Dade in late 1998 and about six months into her consulting career she came up with the technology for SPIA.¿
D¿Alvise¿s work with start-up Metrika Inc., of Sunnyvale, Calif., and Syntex Corp., of Palo Alto, attracted Kurn. D¿Alvise co-founded Metrika in 1995 and guided the entity through several rounds of financing and was vice president of drug development at Syntex.
¿I¿d had this experience, both with start-ups and commercial experience,¿ D¿Alvise said. ¿[Kurn] needed help and had no idea what to do with this technology.
¿It was really just an idea, and she actually did some drawings for me on the back of a napkin at Scott¿s Seafood [Grill & Bar] in Palo Alto. I¿ll never forget it. And the timing was great, with the explosion of genomics. When that all came together, and it appeared that the technology was very robust, we formed the company and did our first round in the fall of 2000.¿
Privately held NuGEN¿s Single Primer Isothermal Amplification technology drives the company. Its benefits, D¿Alvise said, are that it can perform nucleic acid amplification at a single temperature instead of using the thermocycling protocols traditionally used. Also, the technology allows for the use of smaller sample size and is linear.
¿Samples are very, very precious,¿ D¿Alvise said. ¿The current methods cannot amplify up from small samples. Our technology can do that. We can get experiments done in a morning that are now taking two days or more.¿
The linear aspect of SPIA means that it copies only from the original nucleic acid template.
¿We are always copying off the master,¿ D¿Alvise said.
The coming year should bring more mass for NuGEN. D¿Alvise said the company will look to add a marketing person to its mix, as well as more business development staff. Of the 17,000 square feet of space NuGEN has, about 12,000 feet have been built out, leaving 5,000 for manufacturing use. The space is expected to fit NuGEN for about two years, at which point it should grow beyond its bounds, D¿Alvise said. For now, the funding will help push that growth as well as ready the kits for launch.
¿It positions us to become a leader in gene expression profiling,¿ D¿Alvise said. ¿Without this capital, we wouldn¿t be able to move this quickly.¿