By Brady Huggett

Aptagen Inc. acquired ProteinGenesis Inc., launched its Protein Genesis platform and, once it raises more funds, expects to move up and compete in the biotechnology world.

Protein Genesis Inc., founded by Research Corp. Technologies (RCT), of Tucson, Ariz., and the University of Delaware, is a virtual company, with no employees. ProteinGenesis Inc. was merely the Protein Genesis technology that became incorporated, but it was the technology that drew Aptagen, not people, said Benjamin Rudolph, director of corporate communications at Herndon, Va.-based Aptagen.

¿ProteinGenesis was more of a technology than a company,¿ he said. ¿Protein Genesis is a technology that allows us to make fundamental changes to a protein¿s structure. We combined that technology with our own Enzyme Evolution technology. By combining those two, we have launched Protein Genesis. There are no ProteinGenesis employees who will be losing their jobs.¿

Rudolph would not disclose the purchase price, but stated the deal was worth ¿several million dollars¿ and the transaction consisted of a ¿relatively significant amount of [privately held] Aptagen stock.¿

¿RCT took a look at Aptagen and decided that the acquisition would take place with just stock,¿ he said. ¿No money changed hands.¿

RCT is an independent technology management company with university and research institution partnerships worldwide. It focuses on commercializing biomedical and optics technologies.

Aptagen said its Gene Forge platform will be used with the Protein Genesis technology to create multifunction proteins or to modify and enhance existing proteins to create safer and more effective second-generation biologics.

With the Protein Genesis technology, Aptagen plans to help companies keep patent rights to drugs. When a company has a product that is about to go off patent, Aptagen would step in, team with the company and revamp the drug.

¿We can partner with them and when their drug comes off patent, we can work with them to make a second-generation drug and allow them to hold the patent,¿ Rudolph said. Other companies already do this, Rudolph said, but with its new technology, Aptagen plans to compete.

Aptagen was founded in 1995 by Colin Higbie ¿ its current CEO ¿ Shawn Moyer and Tom Caltagirone. Moyer will join Aptagen as director of medical research after he completes his residency in York, Pa; Caltagirone is the vice president of research and development. The company just completed a $3.5 million ¿friends and family¿ financing round, Rudolph said, and is looking to raise another $2 million to $7 million through institutional investors. It is still operating at a loss, but Rudolph said it is nearing the break-even point.

Beyond the new technology launch, Aptagen is working to eliminate the side effects of thrombolytics, manipulating the compounds so they are effective in isolated areas of the body. And it is working on a diagnostic platform designed to test for the presence of certain chemical compounds in hospital, research and industrial settings. Rudolph likened the diagnostic platform to take-home pregnancy tests in their simplicity.

With the Protein Genesis technology acquisition, what Aptagen needs now is money.

¿We are looking for some more funding,¿ Rudolph said. ¿Once we get more money in the bank, we can really launch Protein Genesis and become a major player in the biotech industry.¿

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