BioWorld International Correspondent

BORNHEIM, Germany - Memorec Stoffel GmbH completed its second financing round, raising EUR12.77 million (US$11.2 million).

With the proceeds, Cologne, Germany-based Memorec plans to move its biochip technology platform to an industrial scale and prepare to market its proprietary PIQOR DNA microarray system internationally, Memorec CEO Boris Stoffel told BioWorld International.

"We want to further automate our technology for high-throughput production of PIQOR arrays," Stoffel said. PIQOR stands for Parallel Identification and Quantification of RNAs.

"PIQOR chips are microarrays of cDNA," he said. "You can use them to quantify and qualify RNA expression by hybridization."

The sequence-verified regions selected for cDNAs contain no repetitive elements and therefore do not hybridize to unrelated RNAs, Stoffel explained. The cDNAs have minimal homology to other members of the same gene family, thus minimizing cross-hybridization. The total process is quality controlled by a laboratory information management system, Stoffel said.

"We design PIQOR arrays according to customer demand. If a customer wants to examine how a small molecule affects expression profiles in liver, for example, we design arrays with cDNAs from genes expressed in the liver."

The company's robots spot cDNA solved in 100 picoliter droplets onto the chip surface, to which it binds covalently. Memorec sells such master-tailored products, including hybridization devices, data analysis and data interpretation.

The company also established a proprietary toxicogenomics array (PIQORTox). "In collaboration with [Hanover, Germany-based] Fraunhofer Institute of Toxicology and Aerosole Research we are in the process of building a large expression profile database for toxicogenomics," Stoffel said. "This toxicology platform enables pharmaceutical researchers to check whether small molecules cause RNA expression profiles associated with known toxic effects." Thus, wrong tracks in research can be avoided, he said.

The company wants to become a leading player in the European market for genomics solutions. "We will increase the number of employees from 55 to 90," said Stoffel, adding that the management team also will be enlarged.

The company was founded in September 1997 and started operations in March 1998. In its first financing round it raised DM17.5 million (US$7.8 million).

The syndicate of investors in the second financing round was led by 3i, of Düsseldorf, Germany, and includes Cologne-based companies KSK Wagniskapital; techno media Köln, Delbrück & Co.; and Privatbankiers. Düsseldorf-based 3i-managed Nordrhein Westfalen Fonds and tbg, of Bonn, also participated.

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