By Karen Pihl-Carey

Just four months after Paris-based ValiGene SA and Newtown, Pa.-based Kimeragen Inc. agreed to merge, the newly formed ValiGen has raised $25 million in a private placement.

The funds will be used in the development of the company's genomics, bioinformatics and gene repair technologies, as well as for administrative purposes.

"The money really helps us to move forward with our technologies in a really strong way," said Julia Nuesch, director of human resources and corporate communications at ValiGen in Newtown. "We are planning to open a division in San Diego to work on our agricultural side, and that is now being directed at full force."

Investors in the private placement included the International Biotechnology Trust, of London; ImClone Systems, a biotech company based in New York; new private investors from Germany; and existing company investors. Nuesch estimates the funds will last ValiGen a good two years.

"Our hope is, as we utilize these funds, we'll be developing opportunities to garner more investments or profits from work we're doing," Nuesch told BioWorld Today.

ValiGen, which has operations in both Paris and Newtown, is a privately held company formed through the merger of ValiGene and Kimeragen, which was completed in April. (See BioWorld Today, Feb. 14, 2000, p. 3.)

ValiGen focuses on improving healthcare and agriculture by developing in vivo validated targets, proprietary information and novel products. It has an integrated system that incorporates genomics, informatics and phenomics technologies. The company conducts raw profiling of phenotypes to identify and provide validated targets using chimeraplasty DNA repair technology.

Chimeraplasty uses a living cell's own DNA repair mechanisms to make specific changes in a cell's DNA. Kimeragen used its chimeraplasty technology mainly for agricultural purposes. In December 1998, it joined with AgriBioTech Inc., of Henderson, Nev., to develop enhanced turf grass and forage seed products.

In the healthcare arena, the technology has been used to introduce a mutation in the hemophilia B gene in rodents. Kimeragen also used it to correct 25 percent of affected liver cells in hemophilic dogs. ValiGen currently is concentrating on using its technologies for cardiovascular diseases, cancer and obesity-related diseases.

The company plans to go public eventually, Nuesch said.

"I think that's definitely in our future," she said. "When that will be is obviously under discussion, but as any young company would, that's certainly something we do want to do."