LONDON - Bioinformatics company Inpharmatica Ltd. has set the ambitious target of raising #20 million as it embarks on its second round of funding.

Chris Ashton, commercial director, told BioWorld International this would fund the company for the next two years. "It is a large amount, but we are very optimistic. The markets are changing constantly, but with real, sound technology and sound science behind us, this is a realistic target." London-based Inpharmatica has raised #3.7 million since its formation in September 1998. In January 2000, it signed Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Research as the first customer for Biopendium, a database for relating protein structure to protein function.

This next round of funding will enable the company to increase its processing capability, expanding its server from 1,000 to 3,000 processors by the end of 2000. It also will support further development of a second product, Chematica, a database for matching small molecules to protein binding sites.

"Biopendium and Chematica will enable users to go from gene sequence to lead molecule design in silico," Ashton said.

Inpharmatica also is investing heavily in intellectual property, taking raw sequence data and using Biopendium to predict gene function. "Adding function to gene sequence gives us something that is patentable. There is a once-only chance to stake out the territory."

The company also intends to put resources into drug rescue. This will involve finding new indications for drugs that are going off patent. "Our database allows us to work out what proteins existing drugs will interact with. If we find a new disease association, it will only be necessary to show that the drug works in the new indication."

Similarly, Inpharmatica will work on drugs that were developed, but not registered, either because the market was too small, or someone else got there first. "We can use our databases to find new applications for these drugs," Ashton said. The company also will look at drugs that failed because of toxicity problems and identify the secondary target that caused the side effect, to build a toxicity database.

Coinciding with the second round of financing, the company's founding scientist, Ken Powell, said he is standing down as acting CEO to make way for Malcolm Weir. Weir is joining Inpharmatica in June from London-based Glaxo Wellcome plc, where he is director of the Molecular Sciences Division.