By Randall Osborne
West Coast Editor
Picturing more development of its technology for ¿sequential molecular snapshots,¿ AGY Therapeutics Inc. raised $13 million by placing convertible preferred notes in the second round of a Series B financing, which brings the total amount raised to $24.5 million.
¿We¿re comfortable well into the third quarter of next year,¿ said Philip Young, president and chief operating officer of privately held AGY.
The South San Francisco-based firm uses its imAGYne platform to analyze models of central nervous system diseases, and aims to identify new therapeutics that interfere with signaling pathways. The company has programs in stroke, Alzheimer¿s disease, depression, epilepsy and brain tumors.
Everything is preclinical so far, with the efforts in stroke, Alzheimer¿s and brain tumors farthest along, Young told BioWorld Today.
¿Everyone understands how quickly ischemic damage happens in stroke,¿ he said. ¿We¿re looking at time-course events at every hour. The gene expression changes by the hour, and we¿ve been able to identify gene families at specific times that are secreted, and other times are not. We¿re able to do sophisticated cluster analysis.¿
A similar snapshot approach is used in other CNS diseases, he added, although the hourly scrutiny of genetic events is not as critical in other areas as it is in stroke.
Founded in 1998 by Karoly Nikolich, the firm derives its name from ¿agy¿ (pronounced ¿ah-gee¿), which is the Hungarian word for brain, and has 54 employees.
¿We started out as a functional genomics company, but we¿ve gone down the path of target identification, and we want to be a lead-candidate developer,¿ Young said. ¿We never set out to be a database company, or anything like that.¿
The business plan is to get partners for developing and commercializing markers of CNS conditions, while outlicensing drug targets and diagnostic opportunities as well as lead compounds. Others will be kept in-house for development.
¿We¿re in the process of doing the evaluation [of which projects will be kept] right now,¿ Young said. The stroke program seems particularly promising for diagnostics, he added.
¿If you go back over the history of people trying to do stroke trials, they always end up showing no significance or failing outright, because you never know when a stroke starts ¿ it¿s always dicey to try to figure out what¿s happening,¿ Young said.
By using assays to capture the snapshots, families of genes that are preferentially secreted at various times can be determined, he said. Physicians, scrambling to diagnose an apparent stroke victim so the appropriate drug can be administered, might be immensely helped by a quick, accurate test.
Investors that participated in the financing, the first round of which closed in August 1999, include Alta Partners, of San Francisco; GIMV Venture Capital, of Antwerp, Belgium; Forward Ventures, of San Diego; Jafco Co., of Palo Alto, Calif.; Lombard Odier & Cie, of Geneva, Switzerland; and Novartis Venture Fund, of Basel, Switzerland.