Galileo Genomics Inc. raised C$16.5 million (US$10.5 million) in equity funding to search for genes in a founder population of 50,000 people in Quebec.

"The funds will be used to search for genes associated with 25 common diseases," said John Hooper, CEO and president of Montreal-based Galileo.

Investors included Investissement Desjardins, of Montreal, the lead investor; BTF, of the Netherlands; MVI Medical Venture Investments Ltd., of Basel, Switzerland; and HBM BioVentures, of Switzerland.

"We will use one-third of our funding collecting DNA from the 50,000 founder population, and one-third is being spent on analyzing the DNA/genotyping," Hooper said. "One-sixth of the money primarily will go toward developing more cost-effective ways of finding genes," he said.

The study already is under way, and Hooper said he expects "substantial results" within two to three years.

"I expect to see disease gene discoveries by two years, possibly earlier," Hooper said, noting that Galileo will be looking for genes associated with causation.

Hooper said disease-associated genes will provide new and better targets for drug development. He also said that Galileo is not the only company doing this type of work, but his company's advantage is the population in Quebec being studied.

Galileo will be following a three-point course of action: rapidly scanning the genome using genotyping technology, which Hooper said is much more cost-effective than existing technology; using conventional technology to zoom in on the disease; and using software effective in detecting genes, Hooper said.

The founder population with which Galileo is working involves 6 million distantly related individuals who are descendants from a small group of about 2,600 common ancestors who arrived from France between 1608 and 1760. Galileo is working with clinical investigators to secure participants.

"Our success rate is 99 percent," Hooper said.

Privately held Galileo, founded in 1999, is establishing a trust fund for the benefit of those in Quebec, and the fund will receive 3 percent of the company's net profits.

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