By Matthew Willett

Cellular Genomics Inc. raised $22 million through a private placement the company said will fund the development and commercialization of its genomics technology for functional target validation.

The financing was led by new investors MPM Capital, of Cambridge, Mass.; AGTC Funds Inc. (Applied Genomic Technology Capital Fund LP), also of Cambridge; and Vector Management Fund. Existing investors that participated in this round included CHL Medical Partners and Hartford, Conn.-based Connecticut Innovations Inc.

The financing round, the company's second, makes MPM Capital the privately held company's largest shareholder. The funding should last CGI more than two years, company officials said.

Louis Matis, CGI's president and chief scientific officer, said the financing will fund an expansion of the company's technology in a progression toward drug development.

"The funding is going to be used to enhance our capacities and expand our core technology programs in identifying drug targets, validating drug targets and developing high-throughput screens," Matis told BioWorld Today. "Downstream we'll have identified a substantial number of compelling drug targets and we'll have validated them using our proprietary technologies. We'll have begun to identify potential drug candidates against those targets, and we'll be involved in the initial phases of drug development."

CGI's technology aims at providing gene-to-screen-to-lead solutions through a platform that initially was focused on immunology, but has broad applicability over a range of disease areas.

"We think that our technology is very broadly applicable to drug discovery across a wide range of disease areas," Matis said. "Kinases, for example, play a role in a lot of different cellular pathways and different cellular targets. Kinases are compelling drug targets in cancer, inflammatory disease, neurological diseases and metabolic disease. It's very broadly applicable."

Its capabilities include identification of membrane protein drug targets through its Membrane 1-Hybrid technology, a proprietary protein interaction technology and cell-based high-throughput screening method for compounds that modulate membrane protein function.

Its kinase drug discovery program uses a chemical-genetic approach for validating enzyme drug targets and discovering enzyme inhibitors, and Matis said the technology applies to a broad range of enzymes. It uses its Analogue Sensitive Kinase Alleles for pathway mapping and direct substrate identification as well as target validation.

Moving into high-throughput discovery services opens doors for partnerships, Matis said, and the company is pursuing a number of partnerships and collaborations currently, he added.

The financing future for CGI holds definite plans for tapping public market funds, though it's too early, Matis said, to say when.

"Whether the next round of financing will be a mezzanine followed by an IPO, which I think is likely, hasn't been definitively decided," he said. n

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