Biofrontera Pharmaceuticals GmbH raised DM23 million (US$11.5 million) in an oversubscribed second-round financing, bringing total funding to date to DM44.8 million.

"This is going to last us for approximately two years, and the next step, at least according to the plan, would be an IPO," Hermann Luebbert, founder and CEO of the Leverkusen, Germany-based company, told BioWorld International.

The company plans to use the cash to double its genomics expression profiling capacity, which is based on Digital Expression Pattern Display (DEPD) technology it licensed exclusively from Novartis, and to bolster its biocomputing efforts. It also plans soon to establish a joint venture with an unnamed bioinformatics firm in order to accelerate analysis of the large datasets generated by the PCR-based DEPD system.

3i Group Investments LP, of London and Dusseldorf, Germany, led the financing round. Other participants included Alta Vista Equity Partner GmbH & Co. KG, of Munich, Germany; TRE Holding AG, of Zurich, Switzerland; tbg Technologie Beteiligungs Gesellschaft der Deutschen Ausgleichsbank, of Bonn, Germany; and first-round investors LeVenture Kapital beteiligungsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG, of Leverkusen, and TechnoMedia Kapitalbeteiligungsgesellschaft mbH, of Cologne, Germany. "This time around was fairly easy," Luebbert said. "All of them came to us."

Luebbert, a former head of genome research at Sandoz AG and of neurogenomics research at Novartis Pharma AG, both of Basel, Switzerland, set up Biofrontera in 1998 with a long-established team of scientific collaborators to focus on CNS diseases. The company is tracking the progression of disease in transgenic animal models by studying the temporal pattern of gene expression in brain tissue from the introduction of disease-related genes or contributing environmental factors to the development of symptoms. (See BioWorld International, Sep. 23, 1998, p. 1.)

"We try to understand that physiological cascade using the DEPD technology and then find targets which interrupt the cascade," Luebbert said.

The DEPD system can yield profiles on approximately 40,000 separately expressed genes every two days. The company will double this capacity by implementing a second system to enable it to carry out parallel runs. Biofrontera has built an in-house informatics group and has developed proprietary software for automated data analysis. The company plans to announce its joint venture bioinformatics partner in two weeks, Luebbert said.

It is looking to third parties to generate small molecules that can act on the target biochemical pathways it identifies. "We plan to concentrate on the biology and partner out the chemistry. It's this issue of doing what you do best," said Luebbert, who also holds the chair in animal physiology at the Ruhr-Universitdt Bochum. Its lead program is in the area of migraine. Biofrontera jointly owns a candidate compound with Pharma-Eco Laboratories Inc., of Lexington, Mass., one of its first-round investors. The compound is still one to two years from entering the clinic.

Its other programs are in the areas of pain, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, stroke and epilepsy. The company has forged cooperative relationships with other biotechnology companies and partnerships with pharmaceutical firms, Luebbert said, although it has yet to identify them.