By Brady Huggett

Syrrx Inc. raised $20 million in a Series B round of venture financing with strong support from first-round investors.

"There was a very high interest in participating in the second round," said Wendell Wierenga, CEO of Syrrx. "The primary movers were the ones who had been with us in the first round. I think that provides a real statement of confidence."

The private placement was led by MPM Asset Management, of San Francisco, and included Versant Ventures, of Menlo Park, Calif.; Chemicals and Materials Enterprise Associates, of San Francisco; and Bay City Capital, of San Francisco, all of which were first-round investors. New investors were Lombard Odier & Cie, of Geneva, Switzerland, and Alejandro Zaffaroni.

Syrrx, of San Diego, raised $5 million in first-round financing in August, bringing the company's total amount raised to $25 million. Wierenga said Syrrx may go back for another round, but the timing isn't set.

"Right now the market is very good. I suppose if we were to go get more financing, it wouldn't be a problem," Wierenga said. "But what is more important right now is building the business. We have new facilities, we are adding staff and are going to be over 20 soon. Yesterday's burn rate is not very informative for us. We haven't had to spend very much money to date."

Syrrx was co-founded about a year ago by three men, said Wierenga. Pete Schultz, from the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation; Ned David, also from Novartis; and Ray Stevens, from the Scripps Research Institute, were responsible for forming Syrrx. But while the company is still young, its focus is not.

"We feel we are well along in the technology, because we have been working with it for years," Wierenga said.

The technology that the co-founders brought with them centers on structural genomics. Syrrx uses proprietary technology platforms to solve protein structures and then, used along with genomic and computatorial approaches, to design novel pharmaceuticals. It uses X-ray crystallography, in which molecules are crystallized and then examined through a high-powered X-ray, to determine their structure.

As Syrrx builds its company, it will also look to form corporate partnerships and seek validation of its technology through funding, said Wierenga.

"We imagine [structural genomics] is going to be of great interest to big pharma and selective biotech companies," Wierenga said.

Wierenga said he feels the interest shown in Syrrx validates the company's work, even as the biotechnology world moves ahead.

"We were very pleased by the level of interest [in the financing]; it was extraordinary," Wierenga said. "It means that structural biology will be a very important space to be in the coming years, as we enter the post-genomic era."

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