LONDON - Rademacher Group Ltd., a specialist in carbohydrate chemistry, has raised #8.6 million (US$12.2 million) in a private funding round led by Johnson & Johnson Development Corp. Other investors include Northern Ventures, Apax and Advent Venture Partners.

The Oxford-based company is focused on phosphoglycan messengers (PGMs), small molecules that are able to mediate the signaling actions of circulating growth factors, or hormones that control intracellular events. This approach is applicable to a range of disease areas, including diabetes, asthma, cancer and neurodegenerative disorders.

Alex Watson, business development director, told BioWorld International the money would be spent to take the lead projects from preclinical to proof of concept. "Our first project will be in Type I and Type II diabetes and obesity, where we are already having strong partner discussions."

Rademacher, founded in 1997 around technology developed at University College London, has developed technology for isolating and characterizing PGMs from natural sources and then synthesizing mimics and inhibitors. It is now working on reducing the number of synthesis steps. "Carbohydrate chemistry is very complex and we have one of the key teams working on it," Watson said. "We have a significant lead in this area, which I suppose is one of the company's competitive advantages."

Rademacher is at the stage of building a compound library and selecting a lead for treating Type II diabetes.

The company also has reached proof of concept in an easy-to-use test for diagnosing preclampsia in pregnant women. "This is based on a 1,000-patient clinical trial in which we showed it is possible to identify the condition before the clinical symptoms pick up," Watson said. Discussions are under way to find a partner.

The #8.6 million is expected to last two years. "In that time, we should reach proof of concept in diabetes," Watson said, "but we have a lot of stuff sitting on the shelf, and would hope to find partners now or later in areas such as oncology and central nervous system diseases."

He added that there is "a great mix in the portfolio. The challenge is to use the available financial resources to get the most out of it."