Patrik Dahlen, former president of the life sciences division of PerkinElmer Inc. in Boston, will join Danish firm BioImage A/S this fall as CEO. Dahlen, a Finnish national with over 15 years of U.S. industry experience, was earlier this year appointed president of PerkinElmer¿s drug discovery unit.

His forthcoming arrival at BioImage will mark the end of the Soeborg-based company¿s initial start-up phase. The company was spun off from Novo Nordisk A/S, of Bagsvaerd, in 1999 without a CEO. Chief Operating Officer Ulrik Vejlsgaard told BioWorld International that the company wanted to attain a number of early milestones that would enable it to attract a high-caliber CEO. It has now industrialized its main platform technology, a whole-cell screening system that employs a proprietary form of the green fluorescent protein (GFP) to track intracellular protein translocation events. It also has its first alliance under its belt, with Amersham Pharmacia Biotech Inc., of Piscataway, N.J., which has an exclusive license to its GFP U.S. and European patent portfolios for life sciences applications.

BioImage has retained rights for its own internal drug discovery efforts and for the provision of commercial screening services. ¿We have developed the platform to the extent that we are pleased to show it to potential customers,¿ Vejlsgaard said. The company hopes to secure its first deals before the end of the year. It aims to enter into royalty-based collaborations as well as fee-based service agreements. BioImage is positioning its GFP-based platform as part of a post-genomics and post-proteomics drug discovery paradigm. ¿We became fashionable slightly before we thought we would,¿ Vejlsgaard said.

Its whole-cell assay system can test 96 samples simultaneously and support a daily throughput of up to 10,000 cell screens. The protein of interest is tagged with a GFP analogue, which enables researchers to track intracellular translocation events in real time by building up a time profile based on measurements of the associated light redistribution. It has also developed a complementary system that picks up nanometer-scale protein movements that cannot be resolved at the microscopic level. The system is designed to pick up lead compounds that modulate protein translocation events, which, in turn, are linked with intracellular signaling networks affecting a broad range of biological functions. According to BioImage, compounds discovered through this approach hold out the promise of being more selective while causing fewer side effects than current therapeutics, which are based on inhibiting or stimulating gross activity.

In addition to seeking collaborations with other companies, it has established preclinical programs in inflammation, oncology and cardiovascular disease. It plans to partner these out before they enter the clinic. ¿Our competencies are at the early part of drug discovery, not in development,¿ Vejlsgaard said. The company raised US$17 million at founding. It will seek further cash to develop its drug discovery programs.

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