By Matthew Willett

Chalon Biotech Inc. and Borealis Biosciences Inc. have merged to form Integrative Proteomics Inc., a move company founders say will position them to lead the post-genomics race to identify protein-based drug candidates.

Integrative Director Ross Orr said he expects to announce completion of seed financing of $8 million on Thursday, and that the fledgling company could "test the IPO market" sometime next year, in addition to shopping proprietary protein databases to other biotech companies.

"They are both private companies formed out of the University of Toronto, and the common denominator is the current CEO, Aled Edwards," Orr said. "Chalon is the company that specialized in 3-D structure, and it was really co-founded by Cheryl Arrowsmith. Then we've got Borealis, founded by Aled Edwards and Jack Greenblatt, that basically studies protein-protein interaction. We've merged these two companies together and effectively raised $8 million."

Orr said investors include Lombard Odier Inc., of Geneva, and "a group of high-net-worth individuals in Europe and North America."

The Toronto companies originally were founded by proteomics experts at the University of Toronto's Banting and Best Department of Medical Research and the Ontario Cancer Institute, Chalon in 1997 and Borealis in 1995. Integrative CEO Edwards said Toronto, the third-largest biotech research center in North America, will provide a warm home for the new company.

"The company evolved out of research at the University of Toronto and the Ontario Cancer Institute," he said. "These academic institutions have supported our research, and the technologies for the company sort of naturally evolved. The Ontario government is spending money in a big way to support proteomics. The structure in place in Ontario now has probably dedicated about $5 million to the industry through the Ontario Genome Initiative. The Ontario government, our provincial government here, has been backing this 100 percent. They really think it's the growth industry of the future."

The company was formed as an equal merger, with both companies holding half ownership in the new company.

As a company, Integrative Proteomics has proprietary technology for high-throughput protein expression and purification, protein-protein interaction and 3-D structural determination.

The company also will begin operations with a proprietary database of protein structure and function in development. Orr said developing that database for partnership opportunities is part of the company's business strategy.

"In the longer term I can say that the company will probably test the IPO market sometime mid-next year, and what we want to do in concert with that is to build our proprietary databases and begin marketing them to pharmaceutical companies for milestones and royalties," Orr said.

Meanwhile, the company will focus on staffing and personnel. "We have plans for the immediate future to build a management team around the scientists. We expect to be 60 employees by end of September. Today we have about 20 to 25," Orr said.

"What we've got is a very strong biotech school and research and development world at the University of Toronto. Historically, people get plucked off by companies from the U.S., and one of the things Aled wants to do is to cultivate this local community and make them feel as if there's a future for them here at home."

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