By Kim Coghill

Washington Editor

Cetek Corp. raised $14 million earmarked for its new natural product extract factory that will complement the company¿s current assay capabilities.

Founded in 1996, Cetek Corp., of Marlborough, Mass., started as a fee-for-service screening company with lofty goals of using industrialized approaches to discover drugs from natural products.

About $5 million of the new funds raised will be spent on capital costs associated with the natural product factory, James Little, senior vice president of Cetek, told BioWorld Today. Cetek, a privately held company, intends to hire an additional 10 to 15 people who will work the factory, which is expected to be fully operational by the end of the year. Cetek currently employs 65 people.

The company has raised $28 million (including this financing) since opening its doors five years ago.

Investors in this round were Stata Ventures Partners, of Boston; John and Stephen Davis, of Springfield, Mass.; Gainesborough Investments, of Boston; and James Waters, Cetek¿s CEO.

Cetek has numerous screening collaborations with companies including Pharmacia Corp., of Peapack, N.J.; Genome Therapeutics Corp.; of Waltham, Mass.; Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass.; Microcide Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Mountain View, Calif.; Johnson & Johnson, of New Brunswick, N.J.; and Schering-Plough Corp., of Madison, N.J.

While the company has screened more than 6 million compounds against 120 targets in the past two years, Cetek¿s new technology will enable it to provide other services and increase its revenue potential.

¿A client can supply a target to Cetek, and we will go through our natural product factory and patent compounds that we find and then out-license them back to the client who supplied the target,¿ Little said. ¿In parallel to that, we have internal targets that we are looking at. We will take them through the natural product factory and when we find compounds, we will out-license them.¿

In the past, natural product extracts have been extremely important in infectious diseases and oncology, Little said. ¿We will look at all therapeutic areas, but we will probably give more attention to those areas,¿ he said.

By the end of 2002, Cetek expects to have a collection of more than 30,000 extracts.

Cetek¿s natural product program is unique for several reasons, Little said. For one, the company¿s capillary electrophoresis (CE) technology allows it to look deep into extracts. Also, the company¿s high-throughput fraction system (developed by Waters) works with the CE technology to isolate drug candidates from the natural product extracts, and the company is building a high-throughput compound structural analysis and identification capability.