HAMBURG, Germany - The diagnostics and drug delivery company november AG, of Erlangen, will go public on the German Neuer Markt on April 10, hoping to raise between EUR37 million (US$35.6 million) and EUR45 million.

Starting April 4, november will offer 2 million shares expected to be priced between EUR14 and EUR17, and another 400,000 to cover overallotment options, on Germany's high-tech stock exchange. Last week, Siemens Venture Capital GmbH, of Munich, a subsidiary of Siemens AG, acquired 80,000 shares, equaling about 2 percent of november's stock, which now amounts to EUR4.11 million. Siemens AG already is cooperating with november in the areas of medical technology and automation.

November AG was founded in 1996 and has developed a drug delivery strategy to introduce biologically functional molecules into a cell. Peptides, proteins, nucleic acids and chemical drugs are packaged into viral biocapsides derived from polyoma viruses. The capsides shield the molecules from enzymatic degradation and deliver their freight into target cells and even cell compartments.

"This technology enables us, for example, to introduce into the cells transcription factors and other regulatory molecules to switch off cancer genes, induce developmental cascades to trigger angiogenesis, or to correct malfunctions of the immune system," Wolf Bertling, founder and president of november AG, told BioWorld International. "But the delivery of coat proteins of other viruses, to induce immunization, is also possible."

Bertling added that immune reactions against the capsides would not pose a problem as they would be used only once in most applications. "However, if repeated applications would become necessary, one could add steroids to suppress immune reactions."

In the diagnostic area, November has developed a proprietary method to diagnose diseases by electrohybridization. Nucleic acids are concentrated on the surface of an electrode to which specific complementary sequences are attached. If a negative potential is applied, nucleic acids from a sample are attracted to the electrode and bind to the complementary sequences. Cyclic polarity reversal allows a concentration of the sequences to be recognized. "We have already demonstrated that we can find a gene in a raw blood sample. With an additional amplification step, even smaller amounts can be detected."

He said the company soon would integrate a method to perform a PCR at the surface of microtiter plates followed by online detection. "We have already filed for a patent and are currently in the process of building the machines to produce the microtiter plates with the necessary modifications."

November aims to develop the technologies to a "lab on a strip" to diagnose infectious diseases and genetic dispositions at the bedside.

A modification of the technology enables a completely new method to label products. "We have devised a technology by which we can generate 100,000 'numbers', or unique codes, from just 50 oligonucleotide primers," Bertling explained. "So we can generate a DNA barcode and add that code to liquids like oil, gas, even beer, provided there is no biological activity in it. In addition the barcodes can be sprayed onto solid substances such as sugars, drugs or surfaces. That way products or batches can be marked for identification." The DNA barcode system could even be used to label passports, identity cards and other unique documents, he said.

"On surfaces, the barcode DNA hybridizes with a matching counterpart under room temperature and normal air humidity, so no liquids or solutions have to be used. For a test, the two parts have to come in close contact only to generate a strong fluorescence signal," Bertling said.

In February, november entered a stragetic partnership with Commonwealth Biotechnologies Inc., a Richmond, Va., contract research organization, to develop and commercialize several products. It offers each partner access to the trans-Atlantic market and complementary services and technology. CBI was founded in 1992 and offers nucleic acid and peptide synthesis and sequencing, a range of protein and molecular biology technologies and genetic testing services.

No Comments