LONDON - BTG plc, an intellectual property management company specializing in biosciences and electronics, plans to invest in genomics technologies and companies with part of the proceeds from a #121 million (US$179 million) rights issue announced last week.

Rusi Kathoke, chief financial officer, told BioWorld International, "We intend to spend #5 million forming a dedicated entity, which can then go ahead and raise more money to commercialize genomics technology. Last year $1.9 billion was raised on Nasdaq for genomics; this is small next to that. We want to pull together a range of research which we will source globally."

BTG, based in London, will put a further #10 million of the money into genomics start-ups. "We want people to know we are interested in helping start-ups. We hope people will come to us with proposals that meet our criteria."

Of the rest of the fund raising, BTG plans to invest up to #9.5 million in the early stage development of drug candidates in oncology, #1.5 million per annum developing compounds in neurodegenerative diseases, and #35 million to push Varisolve, a non-surgical technique for treating varicose veins developed by BTG, through regulatory approvals and launch. Varisolve is being commercialized through a separate company, Provensis Ltd., which is 100 percent owned by BTG.

BTG already has seen two cancer products through to the market, and Kathoke said the company currently has "a few" compounds in development and is looking for more. "We have sourced compounds from as far apart as Poland and New Zealand. We are particularly interested in novel approaches, across a wide range of cancer types. We have the skills to place promising compounds with the most appropriate development center, where we will fund the development program.

"The money raised will enable us to put six new compounds a year through that process - though we recognize a lot will fail."

In CNS disorders, Kathoke said BTG has identified a number of compounds for the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. It has begun discussions with biotechnology companies with which it plans to develop compounds through preclinical and clinical phases.

The company also is planning to expand in the U.S., and will be setting up an office on its West Coast.

The 1-for-9 rights issue of 10.46 million shares at #12 each is underwritten by Credit Suisse First Boston Ltd.

BTG was formed from two government technology transfer agencies, the National Enterprise Board and the National Research and Development Corp., and floated in 1995. It has licensed technology to several biotechnology companies, including Peptide Therapeutics plc, Alizyme plc and CeNeS plc.

CEO Ian Harvey said the value of intellectual property rights is increasingly recognized by both the originators of the technology and investors. "The ability to commit financial resources in addition to BTG's own intellectual property and related expertise will materially improve [our] competitive position."

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