By Brady Huggett

Hypnion Inc. raised $10.4 million in a Series A private equity financing and plans to use the money in both its functional genomics and sleep-disorder programs.

"[The money] is a huge milestone for the company," said John Dee, president and CEO of Hypnion. "We had a good, broad interest. We need to get a better handle on how much we can bring in with our services business, but we feel the money will last us two years."

Oxford Bioscience Partners, of Westport, Conn., led the financing, along with Applied Genomic Technology Capital Fund LP, of Cambridge, Mass., and GIMV, of Belgium.

Hypnion, of Worcester, Mass., was built on technology invented by Dale Edgar when he was working at Stanford University. Edgar founded the company with Emmanuel Mignot, Karen Moore, Michael Rosbash and Joseph Takahashi about two years ago and licensed Edgar's high-throughput in vivo assay system from Stanford. The money Hypnion raised will be used for that assay, called SCORE 2000, and for its functional genomics plans.

"The financing will be used to update SCORE 2000 and to ramp up our functional genomics," Dee said. "We will be upgrading the software systems as well as enhancing the compound database. We just moved into a new facility a week ago. We are definitely in a ramp-up mode."

The company uses SCORE 2000 to simultaneously monitor EEG sleep-wakefulness and other physiological and behavioral measures in rodents, then compares the output against a database of digitized standards. The correlation between rodent response and human response has been determined, and under comparison, Hypnion can predict human response and efficacy of tested hypnotic and stimulant compounds.

Not only does this allow Hypnion to test products for sleep disorders, but it also has benefits for others in the field, and gives Hypnion a separate way to generate revenue.

"We will also be providing services for others who want to test in the sleep-disorder area," Dee said.

The company plans to have the entire system of 300 rats and mice up and running by the end of the year, using the rats for compound screening, and the mice for its other interest in SCORE 2000, functional genomics.

Hypnion will focus on structural profiling and also Ethylnitrosurea (ENU) mutagenesis. ENU is injected in mice, causing random mutations in the animal.

"We find those mutated mice, then run them through the [SCORE] system and see if they are the right mutant for sleep disorder areas," Dee said. "This way you have already done the mutation and if we get the result we want, then it is just a matter of mapping the gene."

Again, this area is something Hypnion can work with others on.

"It is our hope that we will strike partnerships with others that are interested in ENU mutagenesis, others outside the sleep-disorder field," Dee said. "We raised a significant amount of money that will keep us going for some time. It gives us credibility."

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