By Karen Pihl-Carey

Just four months after its inception, Geneva Proteomics Inc. has raised $40 million in an equity financing that will help increase the company's staff and improve its Geneva-based proteomics facility.

"We're going to add a significant amount of people by the end of the year," said Cedric Loiret-Bernal, co-CEO of Geneva Proteomics. "Hiring 85-plus scientists over the next six months is quite costly."

The new company has its headquarters in a small office in Evanston, Ill., as well as at its first proteomics facility, a 40,000-square-foot site in Geneva, Switzerland. Next year, a second proteomics facility will be established in Princeton, N.J.

Loiret-Bernal said the $40 million should last until April of 2001.

"We're already raising the next round," he told BioWorld Today. "We're talking about raising $50 [million] to $80 million additional from corporate partners now."

Investors in the current financing include funds and accounts managed by Fidelity Management & Research Co., Jennison Associates LLC, Merlin BioMed Group, Orbimed Advisors LLC, CEH Geneve and Basellandschaftliche Pensionskasse.

Geneva Proteomics was founded in March by Denis Hochstrasser, Amos Bairoch and Ron Appel, the three founders of Geneva Bioinformatics SA, as well as Robin Offord and Keith Rose, who are executives in the new company. In April, the company raised $4.6 million in a seed financing led by the Darier Hentsch Life Science Fund. Loiret-Bernal serves as co-CEO alongside Williams Ettouati. The company now has 12 employees.

The company's goal is to become the international leader in proteomics, generating and marketing proteomic and related information to accelerate the understanding of biological processes. The company plans to obtain massive quantities of proteomic data by mass spectrometry analysis of chosen biological fluids and tissues in healthy and sick individuals. It plans to enhance the value of the information through bioinformatics, and to synthesize small novel proteins and peptides.

"The company goal is to build these proteomics factories and to find some proteome licenses - or deals - with companies who ask us to identify and synthesize proteins in a subset for a specific disease," Loiret-Bernal said.

Geneva Proteomics, he said, can do a proteome analysis for men vs. women, old people vs. young people, and for people with certain diseases. There's no need to decode the genome or do what Rockville, Md.-based Celera Genomics has already done, he said. "There's no need to reinvent the wheel, whereas for a proteome, you can do a proteome for so many different people or diseases."

The term proteome refers to the total protein profile of a cell or a tissue. It can change due to the development of an organism, maturation of cell types and tissues and progression of disease.

Within a couple of years, Geneva Proteomics should have two large-scale proteomic factories - one in Geneva and one in Princeton - up and running. It expects to have 110 employees in Geneva and another 70 in Princeton. The company already has been in talks with four large pharmaceutical companies about using the facilities for drug discovery.

A goal the company has for 2001 is to register for an initial public offering in the U.S. Geneva Proteomics also intends to set up the Princeton facility and to generate revenue by selling subscriptions to its proteomic databases and securing two or three corporate deals.

Aside from hiring 85 scientists and bioinformaticians this year, the company also intends to raise a total of $75 million to $125 million, including this most recent financing, from institutional investors and strategic partners.

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