LONDON - Genomics specialist Oxagen Ltd. raised #30 million (US$44 million) in one of the largest private funding rounds completed by a European biotechnology company.

This third-round funding "was at the top end of expectations, and well oversubscribed," CEO Trevor Nicholls told BioWorld International. "We are very pleased with the amount raised and with the quality of the investor base."

He said the strong reception is due to investors realizing the value of genomics platform technologies for linking genes and disease. "[Following] the publication of the human genome earlier this year, people began to realize that knowing gene sequences is only the beginning. You have got to see how genes are linked to disease. It opened people's eyes up to the value of what Oxagen has been doing for the past three years."

Oxagen, based in Oxford, is working on large collections of samples and data from disease-affected families. It has programs in nine common diseases: coronary artery disease, Type II diabetes, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, autoimmune thyroid disease, osteoporosis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis and asthma. The coronary artery disease program is partnered to AstraZeneca in a five-year deal under which AstraZeneca pays research costs and milestones.

Nicholls said the money raised would be used to expand the capacity of the company's high-throughput single-nucleotide polymorphism systems, to expand its collaborations in mouse genetics and to build a target discovery capability.

"The business strategy hasn't changed - we are still looking to partner half our programs over time. By investing in our in-house development capabilities, we hope to add more value before partnering, and now that we have the money, we can negotiate from a position of strength," he said.

The funding round was led by Schroder Ventures and Abingworth Management and attracted investments from 3i, BankInvest Medical Venture, CFSB Private Equity, Invesco Europe Ltd., Oppenheimer Funds, Pacific Rim Ventures Co. Ltd., the Palladin Group LP and Quest for Growth.

Nicholls said the company will prepare for an IPO in the next 12 months or so, depending on market conditions. "But we have enough money to last two to three years if conditions are not favorable."

Oxagen was established in 1997 with funding from the Wellcome Trust medical charity, Oxford University and private investors. It raised #16.4 million in its second funding round.