BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Matrix Therapeutics Ltd., a therapeutics and diagnostics development company, raised £2 million (US$2.85 million) in a first-round funding to progress its projects and expand its portfolio.

The company concentrates on in-licensing projects from academic groups and then outsourcing development to show proof of principle before licensing the product out. It was founded in August 1999, and although to date it has received only seed funding, Matrix has 10 compounds in its portfolio, including one in Phase IIb, which is under option to a U.S. pharmaceutical company.

CEO Ian Rubin told BioWorld International, "We are a very lean and mean organization, which is very focused, with low internal overhead."

The £2 million will fund the company, based in Nottingham, UK, into 2002, and be used to expand the portfolio toward the 20 to 30 compounds that Rubin said it needs to be viable.

The lead investor in the £2 million round is Technomark Medical Ventures. The seed funding came from the venture capital group 3i, and the University of Manchester, where Matrix licensed its first compounds, including its lead product, a general anaesthetic.

Despite increasing interest and competition to in-license compounds from academe, Rubin said there is an adequate supply. Matrix has evaluated over 100 projects. "You have to get close to the academic groups to understand what is going on. The way we structure deals is in everyone's interest."

Matrix had "a little bit of luck" in getting its lead product into Phase II so quickly. "We were able to advance it quickly because of the existing data, and the people who discovered it are now doing the clinical work," Rubin said. Results of that trial are due in the next few months, at which point Matrix will find out if the pharmaceutical partner will take up its option.

The company also has revenues from one of its products, a reagent used in cancer research.