PARIS ¿ Ipsogen, a biochip design company based in Marseille, completed a second funding round in which it raised EUR4.5 million (US$3.9 million) from a group of venture capital funds.

The funds were provided by three Paris-based venture capital funds: Sociiti Ginirale Asset Management and Matignon Technologies each invested EUR2 million, while Innoveris, a subsidiary of the Caisse d¿Epargne savings bank, contributed the other EUR500,000. Ipsogen was founded at the end of 1999 and obtained seed funding of EUR380,000 in the spring of 2000 from the Paoli-Calmettes Institute, one of France¿s leading cancer centers, which is also based in Marseille, and Samenar, another subsidiary of the Caisse d¿Epargne.

Ipsogen¿s CEO, Vincent Fert, told BioWorld International that the outside shareholders now hold about 50 percent of the company¿s equity between them, while the other 50 percent is held by its four founders. Taking account of refundable grants totaling EUR1.5 million that Ipsogen has received from France¿s National Research Development Agency, Fert said the company has sufficient funds to finance its activities for a further two years. He added that it is in the process of setting up new laboratories in larger premises and plans to recruit another four to six people this year to add to its current staff of eight.

Ipsogen is putting in place a technology platform incorporating high-throughput gene expression analysis facilities for predicting the onset of cancer and the behavior of the disease during treatment. The facilities are designed to identify genes that characterize tumor biology at the individual level, thus enabling clinicians to apply existing and new treatments more efficiently.

The company aims to generate a continuous stream of products in the fields of diagnostic oncology and pharmacogenomics, as well as offering a range of services to the biopharmaceutical industry. Fert said its first two products would be diagnostic tests for leukemia and breast cancer and that they would be on the market by 2003 and 2004, respectively. ¿We have a business model based on rapid product development, since we are developing diagnostic tools rather than medicines,¿ he said.

The company¿s scientific know-how is based on what Fert described as a ¿very strong¿ collaboration with the Paoli-Calmettes Institute, including exclusive rights in the areas of breast cancer and hemopathies. Daniel Birnbaum, head of the institute¿s molecular oncology department, is an associated scientist at Ipsogen and explained the company¿s strategy as follows: ¿Gene signatures for malignant hemopathies and breast cancers are the first genome-related molecular results that impact significantly on cancer patient care. Together with our clinicians, we are on the starting blocks to apply Ipsogen gene signatures to cancer management in hospitals.¿

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