BORNHEIM, Germany ¿ EuroProteome AG completed its second financing round, raising EUR9.5 million (US$8.77 million).

With the proceeds, Hennigsdorf, Germany-based proteome research specialist EuroProteome plans to fuel the growth of staff and infrastructure. A substantial part of the money is expected to further improve the company¿s network of over 30 clinical physicians and researchers, which currently extends to Germany, France, Switzerland, the U.S. and Chile.

The company wants to raise revenues by licensing validated drug and vaccination targets and markers to pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies.

¿We search clinically relevant proteins directly in human tissue. Thus, we avoid results that give rise to hope for mice, but turn out useless for man,¿ EuroProteome Chief Financial Officer Walter von Horstig told BioWorld International.

The company focuses on proteins related to epithelial cancers such as lung and colorectal cancer, liver cancer and pancreatic cancer. It searches these proteins by comparing samples of healthy and pathologic tissue. The clinical partners provide the tissue samples, which are taken directly from cancer surgeries.

¿EuroProteome has a proprietary technology enabling our clinical partners to isolate epithelial cells, healthy and cancerous, with 95 percent purity from the resected tissue,¿ von Horstig said.

The cells, together with data on tumor stage, are stored in the company¿s bank of human tumor tissue samples, which currently contains several thousand samples.

Feeding the tissue bank is not the only task of clinicians in the network. The clinical network also is ¿comparable to an outsourced research and development department,¿ von Horstig said. ¿Before the search for targets and markers begins, partners in the clinics clearly define the relevant clinical questions and therefore save time and money in the research process.¿

Searching drug and vaccination targets or diagnostic markers, the company compares protein patterns in healthy and pathologic cells derived from the same patient. Researchers also may search for early markers for metastases, for example, by comparing metastatic and nonmetastatic tumors.

When researchers identify promising proteins, they generate antibodies against them. ¿We take these antibodies to check blood ¿ and in case of colorectal cancer, stool ¿ for the proteins. If we find them, it¿s potentially a diagnostic marker,¿ von Horstig said. In in vivo assays the proteins are validated as potential drug targets. Currently, one potential target has passed such validation.

The company has about 25 employees. It plans to expand staff to about 50 by the end of 2002 and to invest in an additional facility during the next half-year.

Lead investors in the current financing round are Earlybird Venture Capital, of Hamburg, and Heidelberg Innovation, of Heidelberg. Co-investors are Nextech Venture and Aventic Partners, both of Zurich, Switzerland.

The company was founded in Switzerland in 1998 by the Swiss surgeon and proteome researcher Marc Reymond.

¿In the beginning it was a virtual company, gathering intellectual property and building the scientific research network,¿ von Horstig said. The company started operations after moving to Germany in July 2000. At the same time it received a DM4 million (US$1.9 million) seed financing from a strategic investor.

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